Where to Get a Free Public Criminal Record Check


April 25, 2019

There are many reasons to get a free public criminal record check. Maybe you’ve hired a new employee, and you want to run a background check before they start. Maybe you’ve found a new tenant, but you want to cover your bases before they move in. In any case, a free public criminal record check is an excellent tool to help you identify issues in someone’s history, and ensure you’re working with a reliable, trustworthy person.

Here’s what you need to know about conducting a free public criminal record check wherever you may be.

 

Why getting a free public criminal record check matters

Free Public Criminal Record Check keys to tenant

As a landlord, it’s important for you to know who you’re renting to before the rental contract begins. Looking into a potential tenant’s background serves many purposes. It can help reveal problems lurking in their history, for example. It also helps you identify problems that may mean you’ll have to evict or remove the tenant down the road. Additionally, a free public criminal record check can help you access a prospective tenant’s background information. This way, you can make better decisions about whether or not the person is a good rental fit, or if you should keep looking.

 

How to conduct a free public criminal record check

Want to run a background check on your tenant? Here’s your complete guide:

1. Start with information from the tenant

The first step is to get some standard information from your tenant or applicant. This information can come from a sample rental application, or from a local real estate association, which provides applications you can use.

No matter how you get the application, be sure you have your renters fill one out. The information they provide on the application will be critical for you to conduct a background check and assess whether the applicant would be a suitable tenant.

As a general rule, the application should ask the following questions:

  • The applicant’s full name, date of birth, contact information, and social security number
  • The applicant's driver’s license number and state of issue
  • The applicant’s current and previous addresses, as well as the dates they lived at those residences, their contact information for current and former landlords, and anything else that may be relevant
  • Their current income levels, employer names, and the contact information of both current and former employers
  • Banking and credit references and permission for you to run a credit check
  • At least three personal references and their contact information

2. Obtain credit check permission

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires landlords to obtain express permission to perform credit checks. With this in mind, make sure you’re complying with the FCRA by obtaining a complete credit report authorization, which you can embed in your application. Tenants who will not grant permission for a credit check can legally be denied the opportunity to rent the property.

3. Pull the background check

A good free public criminal record check covers a few bases. Most landlords recommend starting with a credit report, since these reports will help you identify financially stable renters. Online credit reports will show you information about financial issues like foreclosures, detainer lawsuits, evictions, and bankruptcies. Generally, credit scores required for renting apartments are over 620.

furnished apartment in Boston with a cement ceiling a dark grey couch and a brown leather chair

From there, you can move on to a verified tenant screening company, which will pull the tenant’s criminal background record. This search will also run the tenant’s name through the sex offender database, find out whether he or she has ever been charged with damaging property, and whether they pay their rent on time. Here are a few things to know:

  • Under the FCRA, you must obtain free public criminal record checks through an approved Consumer Reporting Agency. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has compiled a list of approved CRAs for tenant screening.
  • These background checks are not always free. In fact, some can cost between $20 and $50.
  • It’s okay for you to request that tenants pay an application fee to cover the cost of their background checks.

 

Getting a free public criminal record check the easy way

The great thing about criminal records is that they’re public information. When you want to find out whether a would-be tenant is reliable and trustworthy, these records can help you find out. If you’ve never run a free public criminal record check, simply follow the tips above in this article. If you need additional help, Blueground offers expert property management that’s different than the traditional norm.

If you manage your own property but don’t want to deal with the hassle of performing background checks for your tenants anymore, consider bringing in a professional property management company like Blueground to help you. Not only do we source high-caliber tenants, but we also take care of furnishing, pricing and maintaining your property during and between leases.


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