Conducting a Roommate Background Check

Learn the essentials of performing a background check on potential roommates to promote safety, financial responsibility, and lifestyle compatibility, ensuring a harmonious living situation

By
Nichole Stohler
|
Last Updated
November 16, 2023
Conducting a Roommate Background Check

As rent rises across the country, more and more renters are opting for roommates to help keep costs affordable. However, sharing a home with someone can put you both in a vulnerable position, so choosing the right roommate can be make or break for the comfort of your living situation.

With roommate background checks, you can learn more about a potential roommate before you commit to living together to make sure you're finding the most compatible roommate. But, you might wonder, what details should you look for before choosing a roommate?

This article reveals the must-know information for conducting comprehensive roommate screening. Read on to learn how to run background checks, the crucial facts to check, and how to use your insights to decide on the best roommate.

Reasons to conduct roommate background checks

When moving in with someone new, you'll want to make sure they're trustworthy, as their behavior will have a direct impact on your day to day. Conducting a background check will allow you to:

  • 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.
  • Prevent money troubles: You often share bills and expenses when you live with a roommate. If your roommate has a history of poor money management, it can create financial stress for you. Background checks help you confirm that your roommate can contribute their fair share and not leave you with unexpected financial 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.

What to check for

A background check is only as good as the information you collect. To gain a thorough understanding of a prospective roommate, make sure to gather information on the following with the prospective roommate's 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 give you insights into their past behavior as a tenant. 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 if they can be a reliable roommate.
  • 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.
  • Personal references: Contacting personal references can give you a better understanding of the potential roommate's character and reliability. Speak to previous roommates or acquaintances for insight into their behavior, communication skills, and overall compatibility as a roommate.
  • 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.

It's important to remember that none of these details offer a holistic view of a person, so evaluate all of 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. Maintain privacy.

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

Legal considerations

Follow the law and respect your potential roommate's privacy before you start your background check. 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, you can also put together your own background check using publicly available information. You can look at the prospective roommate's social media profiles, contact personal references, or talk to their previous landlords. While it may take more time and effort, a DIY approach can still provide valuable insights into your potential roommate.

Look out for red flags

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. 

If you notice inconsistencies or feel uneasy about the information you find, trust your instincts. It's important to choose a roommate who makes you feel safe and comfortable in your home.

Background check for roommate: Conduct with confidence

Running a background check on potential roommates gives you valuable insights, protects your safety, and confirms compatibility.

Respect privacy rights, obtain consent, and be mindful of legal considerations throughout the process. Trust your instincts and prioritize your well-being when making a final decision.

Roommate background check FAQs

How do I balance the need for a thorough background check with respecting a potential roommate's privacy?

To maintain balance, ask for consent, focus on relevant information, use reliable sources, communicate openly, and keep gathered information confidential.

How should I communicate the results of a background check to my potential roommate?

Be honest and transparent when sharing the results. Discuss any concerns and give your potential roommate a chance to explain or provide additional 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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