How to Get the Most From a Criminal Background Check

by | Apr 2, 2012 | Tenant Screening

To get the most from a criminal background report on your prospective tenant, it is important to understand what you are getting and how to use the information.

TVS obtains its criminal records and eviction information from Lexis Nexis. They in turn obtain their information electronically from the various courts and related databases that supply such information throughout the country.

Many landlords assume that criminal records cover every county, state or federal case filed across the country. Unfortunately, not every courthouse in the country provides electronic information.  As a result, it is possible that a criminal case may not appear on an applicant’s criminal report. TVS chooses to use the Lexis Nexis database because it is the most thorough database available today.

There are a number of other reasons why a criminal event may not make it into the report. For instance, there may be a record of a criminal charge, but the court does not report the correlating conviction. Also, it is possible that the defendant’s birthdate reported on the criminal record does not match the request, or the first name provided doesn’t match. To the extent that the rental applicant’s legal information can be verified, the accuracy of the reporting will improve.

When ordering the criminal record check from TVS, it is possible to view a description of what information your state provides.

To get the most accurate view of a prospective tenant, a landlord must use all electronic reports —  including the criminal background check in conjunction with one another and with other sources like the rental application and references. It is in the discrepancies and the contradictions that a clearer picture emerges that the applicant is not telling the whole truth.

There is no magic wand or all encompassing service that can identify everything your tenant has done in the past. In some instances, information that we would like to have is simply not available.

References are a crucial piece of the puzzle when conducting tenant background checks. The current and previous landlords should be contacted, and the employer should be contacted. Landlords who take this step reduce the risk of renting to criminals who have slipped through the cracks rather than relying on criminal background checks alone.

When interviewing the prospective tenant, ask whether they have a criminal record. Make sure to include that question in your rental application, and include a pledge above the signature that the tenant has answered truthfully.  Warn that false answers may be grounds for rejection or subsequent eviction. While some applicants will conceal their criminal past, a large percentage will answer truthfully, especially if they believe that the criminal record will show up during the tenant background check.

The TVS website, and its affiliated sites,, and provide additional educational information to help you get the most from your tenant screening reports.

TVS strives to make the tenant screening process as accurate and as turnkey as possible. To that end, TVS is considering offering a reference-checking service. This would include contacting current and previous landlords and employers.  Let us know if you feel this service would be of value to you.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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