3 Things to Know About Conducting a Tenant Criminal Background Check in Philadelphia, PA

3 Things to Know About Conducting a Tenant Criminal Background Check in Philadelphia, PA

Sam Bankman-Fried was a charismatic, up-and-coming, 20-something billionaire. He was an idol and inspiration to many. Then, authorities arrested him upon discovering he was a massive fraudster.

Case in point? You can't judge a book by its cover.

On the surface, a prospective tenant that you are considering for your rental property may seem to be wonderful. How do you know if they aren't hiding some dark truths deeper down?

A tenant criminal background check is the solution. It can tell you a great deal about your tenant so you don't have to trust their "cover" alone. Here are three things you ought to know before conducting one for your Philadelphia real estate.

1. A Tenant Criminal Background Check Requires Consent

Tenant screening services go in-depth into a person's life. They can uncover their work history, criminal record, history of evictions, and much more. Naturally, this is personal information that most people don't want strangers to see.

It is your legal and ethical responsibility to inform new tenants that you are conducting tenant criminal background checks. Get their consent with a written and signed form. Only continue once you have their express permission.

If they refuse to comply, then you can deny their application. Whatever the case, you want to make sure that everyone has full knowledge of what's going on during the application process.

2. Decide What Disqualifies Someone

The existence of a criminal history shouldn't disqualify someone by default. About 80 million Americans have one. This means that about one in four of your prospective tenants have had a run-in with the law.

Not all criminal records are equal. Sexual misconduct is not the same as someone running a red light when they were 15 years old. Decide on a fair, consistent metric to determine what would disqualify a renter.

Aside from keeping tenants happy, property managers in Philadelphia can also help you develop the right criteria. They can conduct background checks for you so you don't have to make those disqualification decisions.

3. Be Wary of Discrimination

The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when applying for housing. This means that someone can file suit if they feel you denied them based on minority status. To make matters worse, this could happen even if you had no intention to discriminate in the first place!

The key here is to never give anyone special treatment. If you conduct background checks on one tenant, conduct them on all tenants. Deciding to do a background check only on certain individuals looks like discrimination, regardless of intent.

Other discrimination and housing laws may apply to background checks. Read up on everything in your jurisdiction and the state of Philadelphia overall.

Find Property Management at PMI

A tenant criminal background check is an essential tool for discerning good tenants from questionable ones. Make sure to ask for consent when giving it, and determine what would disqualify someone. Most importantly, stay informed of relevant discrimination laws.

PMI Greater Philadelphia provides top-notch property management services for landlords of all property types. Find out your property's ROI with our free rental analysis tool.