Criminal Record Check for Tenants: Myths and Facts

No one can deny the benefits of tenant screening. You can run a background check on tenants to find out their credit and eviction history. Criminal history is a crucial part of tenant screening that explains whether the potential tenants have been involved in any criminal activity in the past.

Tenant screening assists property owners in finding reliable renters. It reduces the risk of renting out property to criminals and gives landlords the peace of mind.

Not many property owners understand the purpose of a criminal record check, which is why they can’t make the most of this process.

Let’s debunk the most prevalent myths about criminal record checks:

Myth#1: The Screening Report Covers Every Crime

Many people believe that the service they choose for a criminal record check covers every city, county, and state in the country and can provide them thorough information about every criminal activity. But this is not the case.

There’s no single database that provides in-depth information about every crime in the country. Even FBI can’t provide you with this information!

Screening companies fetch this information from different sources and then filter out the less important information on the basis of the age of records and the severity of crimes to facilitate the tenants.

Myth#2: All Felonies Represent Serious Crimes

When property owners see the criminal record of tenants, they reject a potential tenant if they’ve been involved in any legal case. However, you should make this decision on the basis of the severity of the crime.

For instance, if you have an eagle’s feather despite not being a member of a Native American tribe, it’s a felony. But this felony isn’t same as an assault or a robbery case. Therefore, you should analyze the severity and the type of the crime before deciding whether or not you should consider renting out your property to the potential tenant.

Myth#3: A Criminal Record Check Can Lead Me into Trouble

Some states in the US have restricted the use of criminal record check by property owners. However, it doesn’t mean you should stop tenant screening. It can help you make the right decision and protect your property.

However, you should get in touch with an attorney to know what kind of information you can look for. This will help you avoid legal issues down the line.

Myth#4: I Can’t Run a Criminal Record Check Without a Social Security Number

Many property owners refrain from checking the criminal history of potential tenants just because they don’t have access to their social security number. Keep in mind that your tenants may not share this critical information with you. But it shouldn’t stop you from running a background check.

The services that provide an insight into the criminal records ask users to provide the full name and the date of birth of the person whose history they want to check. With the help of this information, they can share with you the report of criminal records.

If you’ve got the social security number of your potential buyers, you can input it in the right field to ensure that you don’t miss out on any information due to any typos. But it’s not necessary to enter SSN for a criminal background check.

Myth#5: All Criminal Checks are the Same

It’s another prevalent myth that all criminal record checks are same. However, you need to use different services to get access to the desired information.

If you want to find out whether a potential tenant was a sexual offender, you need to go through the directory of justice department of each state.

So, before you carry out a criminal record check, you should note down the information you’re looking for and then use the right platforms accordingly to get access to the information.

Myth#6: All Criminal Records Have the Same Type of Data

It’s a common myth that all criminal records have a similar type of information. But it’s not true.

The information available online is approved by the police department. If they decide that particular type of information shouldn’t be accessible during the screening process, you can’t access these details.

Myth#7: Traffic Tickets Can be Overlooked

Many property owners thoroughly check the criminal history of potential tenants, but they believe it’s not a criminal offense to get a traffic ticket.

But don’t forget that the person’s name is present in the list because they have committed a crime. The law is law. Whether the patient received a traffic ticket or committed a fraud, it’s a crime. However, the severity of the crime will vary.

So, before you rent out your property to a potential buyer, check the severity of the crime before making a decision.

Myth#8: My Criminal Conviction Record Can Be Used Forever

It’s another myth that a criminal record check provides the information of a crime even if it was committed more than a decade ago. However, as per the US laws, criminal information can’t be used against the person forever.

When you run a criminal background check on any potential tenant, the screening report provides information on the crimes committed less than 7 years ago. Any crime committed before that isn’t included in the background report.

This law protects the rights of the tenants, but it also causes risks for property owners.


A criminal record check is extremely important before renting out your property. However, due to the prevalent myths, property owners often hesitate in carrying out the task. Here are some important facts to clear out those misconceptions:

  • You can run a criminal record check without SSN of potential tenants
  • A single screening report doesn’t cover all crimes in the country
  • Screening report informs about the crimes of past 7 years only
  • The police departments decides which information should be available during tenant screening
  • As long as you don’t misuse the information, a tenant screening won’t lead you into trouble

Tenant screening can help you find out if potential tenants were involved in a criminal activity before so that you can decide whether or not it’s safe to have them as a tenant.

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