Before you lease an apartment or a house to a new tenant, you need to make sure that you’ve found a tenant who will pay the rent. Otherwise, you could be out of your rental property, and you may have a long frustrating legal process before you can get it back. Here's what you need to do.

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1. Your first step is to contact at least one credit reporting agency and get the potential tenant’s credit history and FICO score. The top three to get the information from include Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can also choose to work with a tenant screening service that specifically handles tenant checks and backgrounds. When you request this history, make sure that you have the following information:

- Tenant's name
- Tenant's current address
- Social security number or individual taxpayer identification number

Inform the tenant that you'll be checking his or her credit and background and tell the tenant whether or not he or she will be required to cover the cost. You should get permission in writing to do the tenant credit check, just in case there are any concerns later on.

2. Once you get the credit report, look for the following issues:
- Bankruptcy filings
- Felonies or misdemeanors
- Civil lawsuit liabilities
- Late or delinquent payments

It may also be helpful to see how long the potential tenant has held a credit history. Two years or more is preferable, and it will also give you greater insight into the tenant's credit history and background. Save all of this paperwork in your files in case you need to reference it later. Note that you don't have to share this information with the tenant.

For more help with renting and leasing out a property, visit our Landlords Center.

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