Should you ask a tenant for a background check?

Real Estate Agent with Coming service

If you are a landlord planning to rent out your house or apartment, it could be difficult to find a reliable tenant. The struggle is real if the tenant is unreliable. Landlords often face a lot of torment with a bad tenant- complaints from neighbours, property damage, untidy house, overdue rental payments etc. are pressures on the house owner.

One of the biggest challenges for property investors could be finding the right and a good tenant. Filling up forms with lots of answers is a very common, but an unreliable way. A background check could make it easier to decide on whom to hand over the property keys to. Someone who pays the rent on time and keeps the property safe, clean and shiny is all a house owner could ask for.

If you want to increase your possibility of securing a suitable tenant for the property you invested on, here are some ways.


When seeking information, a landlord has limitations on what they can ask for. Here is a small list of things a landlord can legally ask for:

  • Criminal record check or police check;
  • Past rental history;
  • References from past rentals;
  • Conduct a credit check;
  • Proof of income such as payslips or bank account statements;
  • Proof of ID like photo ID, driver’s license etc..

A landlord doesn’t have the right to ask for or retain the following information from an applicant:

  • Any information deemed discriminatory such as national origin, presence of disability, gender, religion, age, mental illness, pregnancy, political belief, race, familial or marital status etc.;
  • They can’t hold back any information like credit card details.


Asking for an australian federal police check could be strange, but not illogical. Rental applications can contain a list of documents that need to be provided. Asking for a police check is reasonable where the landlord wants to know about the criminal background of someone who will live in the property. It will inform them of involvement in any legal dispute with the property owners.

A police check also saves time on choosing the tenant by narrowing down the applicant’s list. There’s no law that says what a landlord can or cannot ask for during a property viewing. But, the information asked should be reasonable, or somehow related to renting.

The agent or the property investor does not have the right to access an applicant’s sensitive records such as criminal records or credit card records, unless extremely necessary. However, there is no rule saying it’s illegal to ask for one.


A criminal background check meant for tenant application will contain eviction history, criminal offences and other information which was released by the police. It will provide a clear view of the person you are considering as a tenant. It contains all the disclosable court outcomes, criminal history information for example, of the person.

It will also contain the results from a police check application. Details about a disclosable court outcome will be outlined in a criminal record check, even if it took place in another jurisdiction. But crimes declared as spent may not be included in the police clearance certificate.

However, there is a scheme for crimes considered as spent, known as the spent conviction scheme. If someone has been involved with crimes involving vulnerable people (directly or indirectly), will have the offences included in their criminal record check certificate.


Apart from the above-mentioned list, there are few other things that should be considered while screening a tenant

  • A landlord insurance can be considered when looking for a potential tenant. This will protect the landlord’s building and content from any theft or damage.
  • Investigate on the rent payment history and past behaviour. This will act as an indicator of what could be expected from them and what will the future look like if approved for renting. Cross-checking with a reference form the previous landlords, employers or personal referees could be beneficial.
  • Be sure to check the blacklisted applicants. Having a tenants name on the tenant blacklist is a sign of their activities.
  • Interviewing the applicant is an important part of the screening process. Ask for any information that you need to extract. Some questions that may be worth asking are the reasons behind moving house, their employment status, type, responsibilities etc.
  • It is also sometimes possible to conduct a national tenancy database check, which is mostly the last step in the screening check process. This step will aid in the decision-making process as it will have the bankruptcy information or summary of their leasing history. It will also validate the applicant’s identity or if their names are on the blacklist.


Before summing-up, bear in mind that the applicants are not bound to include details from a criminal record check. But end up in reflecting their names on the “rejected” list or at the bottom of the list.



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