A Complete Guide to Conducting a Roommate Background Check

As rent continues to rise, many renters are turning to roommates to help manage costs. Conducting a background check on potential housemates can ensure safety, financial stability, and lifestyle compatibility, making shared living more comfortable and secure.

Nichole Stohler
Last Updated
July 5, 2024
A Complete Guide to Conducting a Roommate Background Check

As rent continues to rise nationwide, many renters are turning to roommates to help keep costs down. In fact, according to getflex.com, about 60% of renters with roommates save on rent and utilities, making shared living a smart choice for managing high expenses. Having a roommate can help you save money, allowing you to afford a nicer place or reduce rental costs significantly.

However, living with someone else can make you feel vulnerable, so finding the right housemate is essential for a comfortable home life.

Roommate background checks can help you learn important details about a potential housemate before you commit, ensuring compatibility. But what exactly should you look for?

This article covers everything you need to know about comprehensive roommate screening. Keep reading to learn how to run background checks, the fundamental facts to check, and how to use your findings to choose the best roommate.

Understanding the benefits of roommate background checks

A 'did you know' callout card for conducting roommate background checks

Before diving into the ‘how,’ let’s explore the ‘why.’ When moving in with someone new, ensuring they’re trustworthy is essential since their behavior will directly affect your daily life. Conducting a background check will allow you to gain reassurance and:

  • Promote safety and security: While most people are trustworthy, a background check allows you to protect your safety by being aware of any past criminal charges or behaviors that could pose a risk. Including a criminal background check in your screening process ensures you are fully informed about any potential threats.
  • Avoid financial headaches: Sharing bills and expenses with a roommate is common. However, if they have a history of poor money management, it can lead to financial stress for you. Conducting a background check helps ensure your roommate can reliably contribute their fair share and prevent unexpected costs.
  • Check for compatible living: Background checks can reveal a potential roommate’s lifestyle, habits, and previous rental history. This information helps you understand if their preferences and behaviors align with yours. For example, you can find out if they smoke, have pets, or keep odd hours–factors that could directly impact your daily life.

Essential checks for roommate screening

A background check’s effectiveness depends on the quality of the information you gather. To fully understand a prospective roommate, make sure to obtain the following details with their permission:

  • Basic information: Gather basic details about your potential roommate, including their full name, date of birth, and contact information.
  • Criminal history: Perform criminal background checks to see if a potential roommate has any criminal records or a history of violence that could jeopardize your safety and security.
  • Employment verification: Verify a potential roommate’s employment status, position, income, and tenure to evaluate their ability to fairly contribute to shared housing expenses.
  • Rental history: Check their rental history to gain insights into their past behavior as tenants. See if they have a history of paying rent on time, taking care of the property, and respecting the rules set by previous landlords. This will help you gauge whether they can be reliable roommates.
  • Credit check: A credit check allows you to assess their financial responsibility and ability to handle financial commitments. You can see their credit score, outstanding debts, and payment history. A strong credit background demonstrates responsibility, while issues like late payments or collections should raise concerns. Credit checks are essential for understanding if they can manage shared financial responsibilities.
  • Personal references: Contacting personal references can help you better understand the potential roommate’s character and reliability. Speak to previous roommates or acquaintances for insight into their behavior, communication skills, and overall compatibility.
  • Social media screening: Review a potential roommate’s social media profiles for additional insight into their lifestyle, interests, and behavior. Checking their social media presence helps determine compatibility with the type of person and behavior you want in a roommate.

Remember, while these details are important, they don't offer a complete picture of a person. It's crucial to evaluate all this information within the appropriate context and with kindness.

Conducting the roommate background check

There are various methods for performing background checks, from using online services to hiring professionals to DIY options.

Using a screening service

An online service like Azibo's tenant screening makes running comprehensive background checks easy, as you can quickly access a wealth of information while maintaining legal protocols.

Here are the key steps to using a screening service:

Step 1: Get written consent from your potential roommate to do the background check. Inform them of the types of information you plan to access.

Step 2: Choose a reliable background check service and submit a request with your roommate's details, such as full legal name and SSN.

Step 3: Verify their identity when the service prompts for ID validation.

Step 4: Review the detailed background check report you receive, watching for any red flags.

Step 5: Have an open conversation with your potential roommate to discuss the findings. Respect their privacy and maintain confidentiality.

Step 6: Keep the background check results confidential by storing them securely and destroying them when no longer needed.

*When using Azibo for renter screening, sign up as a property owner to access the application. Additionally, you can use Azibo to collect rent from your new roommate for free.

Set up your free account today.

Legal considerations

Before you start your background check, it's important to follow the law and respect your potential roommate's privacy. As mentioned previously, you'll need your potential roommate's written consent to gather much of this information.

Professional services

Professional background check companies specialize in comprehensively gathering and verifying information from various sources. They can provide a detailed report that includes criminal records, a credit report, their rental background, and more.

However, professional services typically cost more than running checks through an online screening platform, so be sure to weigh convenience against cost when determining which service to use.

DIY methods

If you're on a budget, consider conducting your own background check using publicly available information. This could include reviewing the prospective roommate's social media profiles, contacting personal references, or speaking with their previous landlords.

Although a DIY approach requires more time and effort, it can still offer useful insights into your potential roommate. However, this method might not be as thorough or reliable as professional background checks.

Look out for red flags

Roommate screening red flags infographic

During the roommate background check process, pay attention to red flags or warning signs that might make you think twice about living with someone. Common red flags include a history of not paying rent on time, a bad credit report, previous criminal activities, or dishonesty during the interview. 

Trust your instincts if you notice inconsistencies or feel uneasy about the information you find. It is important to choose a roommate who makes you feel safe and comfortable in your home.

Background check for roommate: Conduct with confidence

As rent continues to rise, many renters are finding that having a roommate helps manage costs effectively. However, to ensure a harmonious living situation, choosing a trustworthy and compatible roommate is essential. Conducting a thorough background check can provide valuable insights into a potential housemate's financial responsibility, lifestyle, and reliability.

By using professional services, online platforms like Azibo, or DIY methods, you can gather the necessary information to make an informed decision. Remember to respect privacy and legal requirements throughout the process.

Taking these steps will help you find a roommate who contributes to a safe and comfortable home, making shared living a more enjoyable experience.

Roommate background check FAQs

What to consider when choosing a roommate?

When choosing a roommate, consider their financial stability, lifestyle compatibility, and communication skills. It's important to find someone who can reliably pay their share of the rent and bills, has a lifestyle that aligns with yours, and can effectively communicate and resolve conflicts.

What does a good roommate look like?

A good roommate is responsible, respectful, and communicative. They pay their rent and bills on time, respect your space and belongings, and are open to discussing any issues that arise in a mature and constructive manner.

What should be the three characteristics of a good roommate?

  1. Reliability: They consistently pay their share of rent and bills on time.
  2. Respect: They respect your personal space, belongings, and shared living areas.

Communication: They are open and honest about any concerns and willing to work through conflicts amicably.

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.

Nichole Stohler

Nichole co-founded Gateway Private Equity Group, with a history of investments in single-family and multi-family properties, and now a specialization in hotel real estate investments. She is also the creator of NicsGuide.com, a blog dedicated to real estate investing.

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