How Long Does a Background Check Take for an Apartment? Full Timeline

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Background Checks | May 15, 2024

How long does a background check take for an apartment a man wonders while looking at his watch and wondering how far back does a background check go for an apartment and how long does it take for a background check to clear for an apartment while he stands with his suitcase outside the rental property and waits to move in.

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What is the duration of a background check for an apartment? The answer can be difficult to pin down exactly because there’s a variety of background checks for tenants that can be performed.

And while many large corporate apartment complexes have a standard system in place for vetting new residents, some individual owners and smaller units don’t, so it can be hard to pinpoint a time frame.

Although there is a general time frame for answering ‘how long does a background check take for an apartment,’ knowing what will be checked by a potential landlord as well as the local laws can provide a more specific estimate.

Typically, applicants can expect a background check for an apartment to take anywhere from 1-5 days, and potentially longer if there are unexpected background check delays.

This guide explains all the most common aspects of a rental background check, and a full timeline of the process.

How Long Does It Take for a Background Check To Clear for an Apartment

In order to answer the question, “how long does a background check take for an apartment?” There are two main factors to consider. The first is the local state tenant laws. Laws for renters vary from state to state and even from city to city at times.

Besides the jurisdiction of the application, the other main factor is what variety of background checks the leasing company or landlord is running as part of the process. Although local laws may dictate what tenants can’t do, there are still a variety of different checks that some apartments will run on potential tenants, whereas other apartments may only run basic checks.

Just like a pre-employment background check, the person or company completing the check searches for specific public information on the individual, and is sometimes at the mercy of the agency supplying this information. Fortunately, with so many background check-related databases accessible online, this process is often quite fast.

Also, landlords must obtain permission in writing to conduct a background check.

Regardless of the checks being run in any state, most individuals can expect their tenant background check to take a week or less to complete. Although this may take slightly longer in a very specific case, the vast majority of tenant background checks will be completed in just a few days and even a few hours in some cases.

What Does a Rental Background Check Consist Of?

Rental background checks vary from rental property to rental property. However, there are still only a handful of checks that will be run, even on the most thorough of background checks. The vast majority of tenant background checks will focus primarily on the applicant’s financial situation.

Whereas pre-employment background checks may run several different criminal background checks and possibly even a fingerprint-based check, this is fairly uncommon for rentals. This is one of the reasons that tenant background checks tend to take less time than other background checks. They typically utilize a name-based, level 1 background check that includes the social security number for a credit and income check.

However, most companies will perform the following checks:

Criminal Background Check

Criminal background checks are a fairly standard aspect of most tenant background checks these days. Although these criminal background checks are not as thorough as some employment background checks, individuals can expect landlords to run a name-based national criminal background check.

The criminal background check will show things like:

Keep in mind that the background check will only go a certain number of years back, based on state and federal laws, so if the infraction was more than 10 years ago, it probably won’t show up on a tenant background check.

Timeline: Although there are a number of felon friendly apartments and apartments that never conduct background checks unless advertised as such, expect this criminal background check process to take anywhere from 24-72 hours.

Rental Credit Check

One of the most common tenant background checks is a credit check. Just like when applying for a bank loan, the landlord wants to ensure that any potential tenants are in good financial standing. Some companies may have a minimum score for residency.

Checking the individual’s credit score and credit history will give the landlord a good idea of the applicant’s financial reliability.

Timeline: Expect this part of the process to take 15-60 minutes (and it can overlap with the criminal background check process).

Eviction Background Check

Eviction background checks are also very important to landlords. Just like a credit check ensures that the tenant will be able to pay their rent each month, an eviction check will help the landlord get a good idea of whether or not the individual has a history of ignoring lease agreements and other property rules.

Timeline: Expect an eviction check to take 24-72 hours, and it may overlap with the time for the criminal background check, but may not.

Income Verification

Perhaps the most common of tenant background checks, income verification will tell the landlord if the applicant has the financial means to pay rent each month.

Timeline: Background check companies know exactly how to determine where someone works, so this part of the process can take as little as a few hours.

Criminal Background Check for Apartments: How Do I Run a Rental Background Check on Myself First?

Before applying for an apartment, many individuals may see fit to run a background check on themselves, in order to avoid any potential surprises. There are a few ways to perform a background check on yourself.

The easiest and fastest would be to use an online background check company, possibly one that offers a free trial.

Besides going through a background check trial service, there is also the DIY method to perform a few basic checks using public records.

DIY Criminal Background Checks for Apartments

Individuals will need to request records from the county court clerk in every county they have lived in for the last 5 years.

The exact steps to do this will vary slightly, however checking to see if the county court clerk has a searchable online database is a great first step and will be the quickest and most convenient option.

For courts that only have physical records, the best thing to do is to contact the county court clerk directly and ask about the best way to request records. Some courts will have forms to fill out and mail, whereas others will prefer individuals to visit the courthouse in person.

Rental Credit Check

Although most individuals may have a fairly good idea of their credit situation, it’s extremely easy to run a credit check on yourself that will likely be the exact same kind of check a landlord will be running.

USA .gov screenshot with yellow arrow pointing to the annual credit report.com website which can be used to run a free credit report on your self.

You can do so for free using one of the government resources.1 Individuals can run a credit check on themselves for free, once a calendar year.

Eviction Check

Eviction checks are another check that most tenants will not need to run on themselves, as most people are aware of any time they were evicted.

However, evictions are also considered public records and can be found through the courts using the same method to get criminal records.

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go for an Apartment?

Just like the question “How long does a background check take for an apartment?” When it comes to how far back a background check will go, it depends largely on the landlord and local laws. In general, a tenant background check will go back 7-10 years at most. However, many states have adopted laws to limit tenant background checks to less than this, sometimes as little as 5 years.

What Background Check Do Most Landlords Use? (Tenant Screening Service)

There are tons of different background check services available, especially with the rise of online background checks. What services a landlord uses isn’t that important, as most services all use the same methods and perform the same checks.

Whether they run more extensive criminal checks or additional financial checks, the service must still abide by the laws set by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This includes getting written consent from the applicant to perform the checks. Any checks performed using the individual’s information, such as their Social security number, without the consent of the applicant is illegal.

Rental Background Check Laws By State

Rental background check laws vary widely by state. To better understand the rental application process in your state and get more specific answers to the question of ‘how long does a background check take for an apartment,’ use the following links to search a specific state. 

State Rental Background Check Law
AlabamaAL Public Health Tenant Rights2
AlaskaAK Landlord & Tenant Act3
ArizonaAZ Residential Landlord and Tenant Act4
CaliforniaCA Tenants & Landlord Rights5
ColoradoCO Laws Regulating Landlords and Tenants6
ConnecticutCT Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants7
DelawareDE Landlord-Tenant Laws8
FloridaFL Landlord/Tenant Law9
GeorgiaGA Tenant Rights10
HawaiiHI Tenant Rights & Responsibilities11
IdahoID Tenants’ Rights, Laws & Protections12
IllinoisIL Landlord & Tenant Rights & Laws13
IndianaIN Landlord-Tenant Law14
IowaIA Landlord-Tenant Law15
KansasKS Residential Landlord & Tenant Act16
KentuckyKY Tenant Rights17
LouisianaLA Landlord & Tenant Laws18
MaineME Consumer Tenant Rights19
MarylandMD Landlord and Tenant Rights20
MassachusettsMA Landlord & Tenant Rights21
MichiganMI Tenants & Landlord Rights22
MinnesotaMN Landlords & Tenants23
MissouriMO Landlord-Tenant Law24
MississippiMS Landlord-Tenant Laws25
MontanaMT Tenants & Landlords26
NebraskaNE Landlord and Tenant Laws27
NevadaNV Tenant’s Rights28
New HampshireNH Tenants Rights29
New JerseyNJ Tenant Rights30
New MexicoNM Owner Resident Relations Act31
New YorkNY Residential Tenants Rights Guide32
North CarolinaNC Landlord-Tenant Laws33
North DakotaND Century Code34
OhioOH Fair Housing Guide35
OklahomaOK Landlord and Tenant Statutes36
OregonOR Landlord-Tenant Rights37
PennsylvaniaPA Landlord and Tenant Act38
Rhode IslandRI Landlord and Tenant Rights39
South CarolinaSC Residential Landlord and Tenant Act40
South DakotaSD Landlord Tenant Rights41
TennesseeTN Uniform Residential Landlord-Tenant Act42
TexasTX Landlord/Tenant Law43
UtahUT Fit Premises Act44
VermontVT Landlord/Tenant Statute45
VirginiaVA Tenant Rights & Responsibilities46
WashingtonWA Landlord-Tenant Law47
West VirginiaWV Renter’s Rights48
WisconsinWI Landlord Tenant Rights49
WyomingWY Renters’ Rights & Duties50

Applying for a new apartment is an exciting time. However, confusing tenant laws and background checks can also make the process stressful. So, ‘How long does a background check take for an apartment,’ the answer depends on local laws, but expect to wait anywhere from 1-5 days.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Long Does a Background Check Take for an Apartment

How Long Does It Take for a Background Check To Clear for an Apartment?

Apartment background checks should clear in as little as 1 day.

How Long Does a Credit And Background Check Take for an Apartment?

Credit background checks generally only take a few hours to complete.

How Long Does It Take for a Background Check To Come Back for an Apartment?

An apartment background check should come back in about 2-3 days.

How Far Back Does a Background Check Go for an Apartment?

An apartment background check generally goes back 7-10 years, however certain state laws only allow tenant background checks to go back 5 years or less.

How Far Back Does an Apartment Background Check Go?

An apartment background check will go back 10 years at most.

How Long For a Background Check for an Apartment?

An apartment background check should take 2-3 days to complete in most cases.

How Long Do Background Checks Take Renting?

Background checks for rental properties shouldn’t take more than a week and often take just a few hours.

What Background Check Do Most Landlords Use?

Background checks for tenants usually consist of credit checks, eviction checks, criminal history checks, and income verification.

How Far Back Do Most Apartment Background Checks Go?

An apartment background check will usually go back 7-10 years unless prohibited by state law.

How Long Does It Take for a Rental Application To Be Approved?

Rental applications are usually approved within 48 hours.

How Extensive Are Background Checks for Apartments?

Apartment background checks are often extensive when it comes to financial checks. However, criminal background checks are usually minimal.

How To Pass a Background Check for an Apartment?

Providing income verification is often the best way to pass a background check for an apartment. Performing a background check on yourself before applying is also a good practice.

Why Is My Apartment Background Check Taking So Long?

Apartment background checks may take longer for a number of reasons. Background check services are often at the mercy of the agencies they get information from so holidays and similar occurrences can slow the process.


References

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