The Ultimate Guide to Rental History Reports

Rental history reports represent a tenant’s ability to pay rent on time, take care of the property, and get along with their neighbors. Both landlords and renters should pay close attention to their reports' accuracy to ensure smooth and amicable tenancies.

Vivian Tejada
Last Updated
December 5, 2023
The Ultimate Guide to Rental History Reports

When accepting rental applications for an apartment, property owners vet prospective tenants according to certain criteria. The tenant screening process includes an assessment of an applicant’s income streams, credit score, and rental history

Verifying your monthly income and credit score is pretty straightforward. In most cases, all you have to do is present your last two paystubs and request a free online credit report with one of the three major credit bureaus. However, not all rental applicants know how to access their report. 

It’s important to know your overall standing as a tenant to prevent your rental applications from being rejected. It’s equally as important for landlords to not only assess financial factors but also a tenant’s renting history. This provides the property owner with a preview of the kind of tenant the rental applicant is.

In this blog, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about rental history reports, including the factors impacting these reports, why property owners should be checking them, how renters can check their reports themselves, and what to do if your rental record report is poor or non-existent.

What is a rental history report?

A rental history report is a collection of a tenant’s previous addresses and past landlords. This report helps property managers understand how a rental applicant conducts themselves as a tenant. Rental history reports typically reveal the following information about a renter:

  • All previous addresses.
  • Names and contact information of previous landlords.
  • Dates of occupancy for each rental.
  • Past rental rates.
  • The dollar amount of the last rent payment collected on each rental.
  • Late payments, broken leases, and evictions.
  • Landlord recommendations and concerns.

What factors impact rental history reports?

As a renter, it’s important to know that property owners are looking for responsible tenants who will take care of their units, pay their rent on time, and get along with their neighbors. Previous landlords who can give personal references and attest to positive behavior can help you get approved for your next apartment. If you've been an excellent tenant to your current landlord, encourage them to report all of the following about your tenancy:

  • Rent paid on-time.
  • Rent paid-in-full.
  • Amicable lease terminations.
  • Apartment left in good/great/excellent condition.
  • Positive relationships with neighbors.

Unfortunately, if there were problems with your tenancy, one or more of your landlords will likely report the following about your tenancy:

  • Late or incomplete rent payments.
  • Lease violations.
  • Evictions.
  • Property damage.
  • Noise complaints.

Why should property managers check rental history reports?

Rental history reports provide rental owners with valuable insights into tenant behavior that aren't always obvious in credit reports, background checks, or bank statements. If a tenant has consistently paid their rent on time over the last two years, chances are they’ll continue to do so. However, if a tenant has left previous rentals with a laundry list of issues, chances are they’ll continue to cause problems wherever they go. 

Rental history reports can also reveal how much rent is still owed to previous landlords. This is important for landlords to note, as outstanding rent could affect a tenant's ability to make future rent payments.

Understanding how a prospective tenant treats their responsibilities as a renter is especially important in rental markets where it’s difficult to evict tenants, such as in New York and California. It’s better to avoid bad tenants altogether by assessing their history in addition to other tenant qualifications. 

How tenants can check their rental history report

As a renter, it’s important to know what your rental history reports say about you before applying to new apartments. Ensure all information included on your report is correct before your future landlord looks at it.

Just like credit reports, rental history reports aren’t always accurate. It’s a good idea to verify all key details: addresses, dates of occupancy, landlord names, and landlord contact information before submitting a rental application.

Going through your landlord or property manager

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, renters are entitled to one free rental history report every 12 months. Prospective renters can request a copy of their report from any tenant screening agency online. If you’ve already used your one credit for the year, ask your current landlord for a copy of the rental history report they used to evaluate your rental application when you first applied.

When renters submit a rental application to a new apartment, they can ask the property manager to provide them with a copy of their full tenant screening report. By law, property owners are obligated to provide you with a copy of your tenant screening report if requested. 

Using a tenant screening company

Some landlords don’t keep tenant rental records for more than a year, while others don't bother to check rental history reports at all, which leaves renters with one last option — going through their prospective landlord's tenant screening company.

When to obtain your report

Although it’s best to obtain all consumer reports before submitting a rental application, requesting a complete tenant screening report after submitting a new rental application allows you to view the most updated version of your credit score, background check, and rental history report. This will be the most recent version of your report available to prospective landlords, which will give you an idea of the information property managers will use to assess your tenancy.

You may not want to do this with your first-choice apartment, since you wouldn’t have a chance to correct derogatory marks. However, you could do this with one of the rental units on your list, and then address the parts of your rental history report that could use some work.

What to do if a renter has no rental history

Renters who are relatively young or new to the rental market, such as recent college graduates, won’t have much of a rental history. This isn’t a problem, as long as you find other ways to evaluate their tenancy. Prospective tenants who provide solid proof of employment, a decent credit score, and recommendations from previous roommates or college resident assistants are good tenants to consider. It may also be helpful to bring a cosigner onto the lease.

What to do if a renter has a poor rental history

Poor rental history is a bit more complicated to swing. Late rent payments, property damage, and neighbor disputes are some of the most common derogatory marks on a tenant’s rental history. Depending on the severity and frequency of these negative marks, landlords will either deny your rental application or accept your tenancy under certain conditions. Rental owners may request additional verification, recommendations, or security deposits as protection. 

Evictions are usually big red flags that cause property owners to turn prospective tenants away. However, evictions aren’t always a dealbreaker. Some rental owners will accept a tenant with an eviction on their report, particularly if the eviction was a long time ago or if their finances are in excellent condition. 

Renters should be prepared to explain any derogatory mark on their rental history report to increase their chances of being approved. 

How to improve your rental history report

Ideally, your rental history report will improve with every rental property you move into. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, especially if your landlords don’t update your tenant information. You could have five years of excellent tenancy and have nothing to show for it if your landlords are not actively reporting your rental history.

Take advantage of your ability to request one free tenant screening report every year. This allows you to stay up to date on your rental history report and quickly address inaccuracies. If you’re not happy with your report, here are a few ways to improve it:

  • Check for inaccuracies.
  • Contact the private consumer reporting agency and submit updates.
  • Prioritize paying rent and utility bills on time.
  • Eliminate invoices for outstanding rent.
  • Deep clean your unit at least once a month.
  • Avoid frequently hosting large amounts of people to prevent property damage and noise complaints.
  • Maintain polite and timely communication with landlords and neighbors.

The bottom line on rental history reports

Understanding and managing your rental history report is an important aspect of the rental application process. While not all property owners check your rental history through a tenant screening service, it’s best to know the information included in your report so that you can either explain or improve negative marks. Chances are at least one prospective landlord on your apartment list will want to see a copy of your report.

Property managers should include rental history reports in their tenant screening processes to capture the full picture of a tenant’s behavior. It’s important to verify a tenant’s income, creditworthiness, and criminal background before accepting their application. However, it’s equally as important to evaluate a tenant’s level of responsibility with property that isn’t theirs and consideration for their neighbors. Only a rental history report can provide insights into these criteria.

Important Note: This post is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal, accounting, or tax advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for such services. Always consult your own legal, accounting, or tax counsel before taking any action based on this information.

Vivian Tejada

Vivian is a freelance real estate writer based in Brooklyn, NYC providing SEO blogging services to real estate companies. Her work focuses on educating first-time real estate investors on investment strategy and explaining proptech tools to new customers.

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