Landlords use tenant screening as a method to protect their asset: the apartment. The rationale is that the more effective tenant screening they can conduct upfront, the less likely they’ll end up with a tenant who doesn’t pay rent or is likely to damage the property. Here’s the information that you can expect to disclose during a tenant screening:
Social Security Number
This is required to conduct a credit check. Landlords examine your credit history to see whether you pay your other bills. If they see that you have a history of not paying your bills at all or not on time, they will deny your tenant application. They don’t want to take the risk of renting to you and having you not pay rent. That’s why it’s extremely important that you are prepared to address any issues that negatively impact your credit score. For example, if there are charges that appear on your credit record that are not yours, you should address it with the credit bureaus as soon as you’re aware of the problem. Your landlord may also accept your explanation, as long as you’re honest and detailed in your response.
You’ll have to provide a copy of your driver’s license to confirm your identity. Using your driver’s license number and birth date (which is on the license) is also another way to check your credit history. Providing your driver’s license for a tenant screening is not optional. If you hesitate or are not willing to provide it, your tenant application will most likely get denied. The landlord needs to be assured that you are who you say you are, and if you don’t give it, they’ll suspect that something is wrong. For example, landlords will may suspect that you’re impersonating another prospective tenant.
Copy of Current Utility Bill
Part of the tenant screening process is verification of your rental history with your current or a recent landlord. However, anyone can pretend to be a landlord. For example, one fraud that some tenants commit is having their friend pretend to be a current landlord, and of course providing an excellent reference to a prospective landlord. As a result of this scam, landlords may require a copy of your current utility bill to verify that you actually live at the address in question and they can verify the name and contact information of the landlord that owns that rental unit.
Prospective landlords want to confirm that you’re working, and will ask for employment verification. This consists of a letter from your employer stating that you’re a current employee and your salary or hourly rate. You can write the letter yourself and ask your employer to sign it.
During the tenant screening process, some landlords only require basic information, which is reasonable. Others ask too much information, and you should be wary of giving away information that is irrelevant to your ability to rent an apartment.
Unfortunately, there are fraudulent landlords that abuse the tenant screening process, and collect personal information for the sole purpose of committing identity theft. If you’re uncomfortable with the information you’re being asked for, do more research on that particular landlord, and move on if necessary.