First-time renters and first-time landlords have the same questions about the length of time it takes to conduct a background check. Prospective renters might ask how long does it take for a rental application to be approved? New landlords and property managers might ask how long does it take to run a tenant background check in the tenant screening process?
The length of time to conduct a background check (also known as tenant screening) for a rental property can vary depending on the complexity of the assessment and the speed of the property management company or landlord conducting the review. Some background checks can be completed in a matter of hours, while others may take a few days or longer.
Generally, it is common for a background check to take a week or longer to complete, especially if it involves verifying employment, income, and other pertinent information. This article will identify the elements of a rental application and tenant screening with the average time frame to complete each verification.
Understanding the process of a background check for renting a home and the time it takes
Although this article will outline the typical amount of time for prospective tenants, the best way to find out how long a background check will take is to ask the landlord or property manager. They should give you a rough estimate of the typical turnaround time using their resources, tools, and criteria.
When you apply to rent a home, the landlord or property manager conducts tenant screening to verify your identity and to assess your suitability as a potential renter. What does a background check show? When done thoroughly, an accurate background check for renting a home will verify and include the following:
- Identification verification
- Rental history
- Credit check
- Employment verification
- Proof of income
- Criminal history
- Pet verification
- Personal references
- Other rental application details
Your property will only be as successful as the rent-paying tenants who sign the lease. The only way to legally find a qualified tenant is to utilize tenant screening resources. A credit report gives you a look into a renter’s bill-paying habits, a criminal report sheds light on a renter’s rule-abiding behavior and an eviction history report show if a renter has a court record of an eviction. – Nathan Miller, Rentec DirectForbes Real Estate Council Article: What Everyone Should Know Before Investing In Real Estate
Expected time frame for completing a background check for a rental application
Verifying identification may include checking the social security number, driver’s license, or other government-issued ID card or passport to confirm the applicant’s identity.
Time to complete: Instant or near-instant report from a reputable tenant screening provider can verify a social security number. Other identification needs to be verified manually.
Rental History Verification
The landlord may check rental history to see how the applicant previously behaved as a tenant, which may include verifying rent was paid on time and the occupant did not cause any damage to previous rental properties.
Time to complete: Instant or near-instant reports from a reputable tenant screening provider. If done manually, the timeframe depends on how long the previous landlords take to respond to the inquiry.
The landlord may review credit history to see if the applicant made timely payments and assess financial stability.
Credit and criminal database reports are generally considered accurate, but there’s always the possibility of errors or outdated information. Credit reports can sometimes contain errors, such as incorrect account balances or information about accounts that belong to someone else. It is a good idea to for applicants to review a credit report carefully and dispute any discrepancies found.
Time to complete: Instant or near-instant reports from a reputable tenant screening provider. If little-to-no credit is established, it may require a co-signer to fill out an application and go through a background check.
The landlord may verify current and past employment to ensure that the applicants have a stable income and are likely to be able to pay the rent amount.
Time to complete: Instant or near-instant reports from a reputable tenant screening provider may provide information about current and previous employment. For manual verification, the timeframe depends on how long a current employer takes to respond to the inquiry.
Proof of Income
Bank statements, W2s, an employment offer letter, and paystubs will be needed to verify monthly income. It may prolong the process if this information needs to be verified directly with an employer or have the applicant provide additional information. Inconsistent income can also slow down the verification process.
Time to complete: Instant or near-instant reports from a reputable tenant screening provider are available for income verification.
The landlord may check for any past criminal convictions, although the specific severity and how far back the check goes may vary. How long does a criminal background check take can depend on what type of report is pulled (Nationwide versus State or Local) and the time it takes to evaluate the information found on those reports.
Criminal database reports can also contain errors, such as records for crimes that have been expunged or records for someone with the same or similar name. It is essential for landlords, property managers, and leasing agents to review any criminal background report carefully to ensure that any records match the prospects’ identification.
Minor infractions like traffic violations versus serious crimes and felonies must be evaluated differently. Local laws dictate what can and can’t be considered when processing a rental application. Check your State and local regulations before denying an applicant based on criminal reports.
Time to complete: Instant or near-instant reports from a reputable tenant screening provider for nationwide records. State, County, or City criminal reports typically take multiple days as a person must manually process the report request and retrieval.
Depending on the rental policy, requests for reasonable accommodations for a service animal may take time to receive adequate information and documentation. Otherwise, conducting a pet screening for family pets are very quick to process.
Time to complete: A pet profile can be created quickly by the prospective applicant by using a reputable pet screening provider.
The landlord may reach out to people who know the applicant and can vouch for their character and suitability as a tenant.
Time to complete: One or more days to contact applicant references
Other Rental Application Details
Incomplete or inaccurate rental applications – mismatch information on application in light of documentation received, verifications, etc.
Time to complete: Varies
Factors that can affect the duration of a background check for renting a home
Inaccurate and incomplete information on an application can slow down a background check or eliminate a prospect from the running.
Landlords can use property management software that provides an customizable online application and vacancy marketing tools to save time processing and organizing applications. Many online applications also provide the needed authorizations that allow landlords to pull tenant screening reports as well as provide online tools for accepting and adding tenants to the system once approved.
Cosigners and other occupants will also need to fill out applications and go through the entire background check process which can delay and extend the processing time.
If a prospective tenant asks for reasonable accommodations during the application process it could add additional time to the duration of a background check to ensure the request is fully considered.
Bonus | How to speed up the background check process and get accurate results
- Read the property vacancy listing and the company website and application instructions.
- Complete the application in full and do not leave out any details or leave blank any questions.
- Provide all the requested documentation. You might want to proactively offer additional documentation, a rental resume, or other information.
- Be sure to answer all questions accurately and double-check for typos or inconsistencies (meaning, ensure your information matches any supporting documents or tenant screening results).
- Reduce time by using the best property management software designed to help you stay organized and find the best tenants.
- Use the landlord software built-in online rental application. Most software will allow you to customize questions and criteria and provides the authorization needed for you to pull tenant screening reports easily.
- Have clear application instructions and questions.
- Establish rental criteria and publish them in your online vacancy listings and on your website
Tip: Be cautious using free background check software or services as they may not be reputable nor their database results reliable.
An accurate background check can take some time — from a few hours to a few days. A more complex tenant background check can take a week or more. To speed up the process, consider using an online application and a tenant screening provider that offers reliable and fast reports at a reasonable rate.
Related Reading For You:
- Questions and Answers | Tenant Screening with Rentec Direct
- Understanding Background Check and Tenant Screening Reports
- Are All Tenant Screening Reports Created Equal?