As a potential tenant, you can expect to be thoroughly scrutinized. Good landlords will do credit checks, conduct personal interviews, and also request a copy of your rental history report. It’s important to make sure you know what’s on it—and to dispute any errors you may find—as these reports can be a deciding factor in your rental application.
What is a rental history report, exactly?
A rental history report is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a written history of your past rentals. They're designed to show potential landlords what you're like as a tenant. In general, they include:
- A comprehensive list of all the addresses where you’ve rented
- Contact information for the landlord or property manager that was in charge of the property when you lived there
- The dates you lived at each rental and how much you paid in rent
- Issues like late rent payments, evictions, broken leases, and any other major problems that occurred while you were renting
- An overall recommendation (good or bad) from your previous landlords
Where does my rental history report come from?
Some rental history reports are compiled by private consumer reporting companies. These companies pull together information from multiple sources, including background checks, your credit report, eviction records, criminal background checks, and address histories. Dozens of these companies exist, but only a handful are documented with the Consumer Finance Protection Board.
In other cases, a landlord will handle the rental history portion of the tenant screening process themselves. They'll request certain information as part of your rental application—including your past addresses and your previous landlords' contact information—and will get in touch to ask about your behavior as a tenant.
Do I have a rental history if I haven’t rented before?
No—but don’t worry. If this is your first apartment, landlords have other methods they can use to vet you. They may (and likely will) check your income by asking for pay stubs, running a credit report, and calling personal references. They may even suggest a co-signer on the lease.
Will all landlords request my rental history?
Yes, most likely—although the way they go about it often depends on the type of landlord. Private ones may simply have you fill out a form that includes the landlord's name and contact information for your past rentals. Landlords of large buildings or property management companies will probably pull a report from a screening company. They'll do this after you put in a rental application for the unit.
Do I need to get my own copy of my report?
You aren’t required to get one, but it’s a good idea. Sometimes incorrect information shows up on these reports, which could potentially result in your application being denied. You’re entitled to a free copy of your rental history report, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The best way to get a copy—at least of the one your potential landlord is going to see—is to ask them which company they’re using. The market is saturated with companies offering rental history report services, and if you go to the wrong one, you might not get the same information. The Consumer Finance Protection Board has a list of potential sources for the reports; once you get the name from your landlord, you can just look it up.
What can I do if the information on my rental history is wrong?
Once you get a copy of your rental history report, check it carefully to make sure it’s accurate. And don’t let anything slip by—incorrect dates for even one apartment could jeopardize your chances for a new place, because it could erroneously show late rent payments. If any information on the report is wrong, you can dispute it. Supply the company with supporting information, and they’ll review the issue and fix any problems.
Can I get rid of negative information, even if it’s true?
If the negative information is something small or fixable—like property damage in the form of torn carpet that can be replaced—try negotiating with your past landlord to resolve the issue and update the report. But if it’s something like an eviction, you’re probably not going to be able to change it.
Is my rental history the same thing as a credit check?
A rental history report is not a credit report. That being said, some credit check reports will include an abbreviated list of past rentals. It’s also likely any potential landlord or property management company will pull your credit report while deciding if they should rent to you.
Will my rental history matter once I’m ready to stop renting?
If you’re not a prior homeowner, your rental report could make or break a mortgage deal. Mortgage lenders will look at your report and likely contact some (or all) of your past properties to ask about your behavior as a tenant, particularly if you paid rent on time. If you paid 30 days or more late three times or more, you’re not likely to get a loan.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
Can’t find your question?
Have a specific question that's not answered in one of our Learn articles? Submit it here and we might be able to create a new article.