Background checks without an SSN

7 Replies

Does anyone know of any places where I can run a background check on an applicant that doesn't have an SSN. They have a drivers license through the Mexican consulate, and permanent resident status (green card). Smart move and the other services I have looked into wont let me use the identification numbers I have from their documents. Does anyone rent to immigrants/ permanant residents? Or does anyone know a service that does background checks on other ID numbers? 

Hi Jim,

I have to respond to your post because I am curious, in general, about the idea of requesting SSN numbers from tenants in the first place.  Naturally a property owner has a legitimate need to know if a prospective can afford the rental price and has the means to pay.   Also, rental history plays a big part in the decision to rent to a person. Have they been evicted, consistent late pay, etc.? Beyond the obvious concerns, a deep background check seems overly intrusive.  

There is a general trend these days to demand of people to provide personal information that is beyond the scope of necessity.  A SSN number, date of birth and the drivers license number is enough information to access an individual's bank accounts, credit cards etc.  It is dangerous for any person to hand over control of their financal access to a lay person. 

Generally, renting to anyone poses certain risks to the property owner in terms of maintenance and loss of timely payments. These are inherent risks that one must understand and be prepared to manage.  There are also remedies that a property owner can make to minimize risk without the perpetuation of bad practices.  Do not discount your gut feelings when meeting with a perspective tenant.  If you feel the need for a deep investigation of a perspective tenant, then you may want to pass on renting to them.

As investors we must all strive to create opportunity for others and to improve business practices. When we can pass the tests we require of others, everyone wins. 

When a tenant applies to rent one of our properties, they fill out a one page application which states that there will be a background check if approved. If I can verify the information on the app and then decide to move forward, the tenant must provide the background check fee, a copy of their license, and their social security number. I don't ask for these things unless I am confident at that point that they are a good *potential* tenant.

I have no intention of turning over a piece of real estate that my husband and I have made a significant investment in to someone that would not provide this information. I've never had a tenant say no. I *have* had tenants who said there would be no problems on a criminal background report, then I run it and find, among other things, domestic abuse, theft charges, child endangerment, etc. Some have turned up false SS#'s. On the surface, they seemed like nice people with good jobs, but they lied about their background and had some fairly serious charges. I did not want them living in my property.

An investigation of a tenant is a very good business practice. Have you ever applied for a mortgage to purchase your properties? Lenders practically require DNA samples and your firstborn. You can pay cash, but there is plenty of personal information required for closing.

@Jim Robertson ,  for applicants that don't have SS#'s, you can search by name in the state/county database for criminal activity, but I don't know what to do if a tenant has no previous address in the area. Have you contacted American Tenant Screening?

@Victoria Winters  I agree with you that there are inherent risks in renting a property to tenants. I don't think a criminal background check counts as a deep background check. I would like to know the prospective tenants criminal history. I believe applicant should be viewed holistically. I do like to know if my tenant has a history of fraud, arson, or other crimes. If I can have data to back up my gut feeling, why would I ignore it? 

Aly NA I will look into american tenant screening. Thanks for the tip

@Jim Robertson  Hi Jim.   You are correct, from your point of view, to conduct the tenant screening process to the depth of your comfort level. Every property owner must be comfortable with the people they choose as tenants.  Jim says:  "If I can have data to back up my gut feeling, why would I ignore it?"  A "gut feeling" really requires no outside confirmation.  I say, save yourself money and trust your feelings.  There really is no need to prove to yourself that you are correct. 

Originally posted by @Victoria Winters :

Hi Jim,

I have to respond to your post because I am curious, in general, about the idea of requesting SSN numbers from tenants in the first place.  Naturally a property owner has a legitimate need to know if a prospective can afford the rental price and has the means to pay.   Also, rental history plays a big part in the decision to rent to a person. Have they been evicted, consistent late pay, etc.? Beyond the obvious concerns, a deep background check seems overly intrusive.  

There is a general trend these days to demand of people to provide personal information that is beyond the scope of necessity.  A SSN number, date of birth and the drivers license number is enough information to access an individual's bank accounts, credit cards etc.  It is dangerous for any person to hand over control of their financal access to a lay person. 

Generally, renting to anyone poses certain risks to the property owner in terms of maintenance and loss of timely payments. These are inherent risks that one must understand and be prepared to manage.  There are also remedies that a property owner can make to minimize risk without the perpetuation of bad practices.  Do not discount your gut feelings when meeting with a perspective tenant.  If you feel the need for a deep investigation of a perspective tenant, then you may want to pass on renting to them.

As investors we must all strive to create opportunity for others and to improve business practices. When we can pass the tests we require of others, everyone wins. 

California landlords need to be mindful that it is unlawful and discriminatory to ask for immigration status or documents.  While you can ask for a social security number, you can't require one.  As long as the applicant provides other proof of identification you can't reject them based on lack of social security number alone.

As for background checks, many of the online services don't need an SSN.  The SSN is  needed for credit reports, not background screening.

Gut feeling can not be trusted. Period. If you want to have easy time to collect your rent, you must check the applicant's credit reports. Here is an example. We had a nice property for rent. One of the applicants was an elementary school teacher,  looked very nice, and told us upfront that she has excellent credit score. When I pulled her report, sure it is, her score was more than 700. However, on her husband's application form, she either intentionally or unintentionally left SSN field blank. When I asked her specifically later, she then filled the field. When I run her husband's credit report, his score turned out only 400+. My point is that gut feeling could only be used when your have multiple qualified applicants and you need to choose only one of them.

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