How Much Do You Really Know About Your Roommate?

article by Arya A. author
Sharing accommodation with a total stranger can be exciting or nerve-racking. There is no doubt that there are tremendous cost benefits to having a roommate, such as splitting the rental in half or substantially cutting your personal mortgage repayments.

Roommates can also provide entertainment, and a social life. However, there are potential downsides to bringing a total stranger into your home. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate the unknowns by running a background check on the applicant. It’s important to gather as much information as you can on a roommate to ensure that you are not swindled, manhandled, or worse. Cultural nuances may play a part in the accepted etiquette when it comes to background checks. It is certainly impolite to request too much personal information from a roommate from the get go, but certain data is necessary.

What Types of Questions Should a Roommate Be Subjected to?

For starters, it’s important to get basic biographical information from the applicant. This includes the following:

  • A Comprehensive Credit Check
  • Date of Birth, First and Last Name
  • Last Known Address and Rental History
  • Multiple Personal and/or Character References
  • Name, Address, and Contact Details of Current Employer
  • A Criminal Background Check and Sex Offender Registry Check are Essential

A background check contains a substantial volume of information, and it is necessary to go through the data with a fine-tooth comb. As a landlord, it is incumbent upon you to contact the previous landlord to verify things like payment history, condition of the rental, behavior and possible complaints against the tenant.

Remember: The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, especially with tenants.

How Can Social Media Background Checks Help You?

There are many other tools that landlords can use during the screening process, including the use of social media. Social media platforms such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google + and others are perfect sources of information about individuals. People are often reckless with the type of information they volunteer on social media platforms. Since this information is freely available – in the public domain – it is not an invasion of a person’s privacy. A person’s habits, rants, preferences, and interests are easily seen on sites like Facebook. For example, you may not wish to be sharing a home with a racist, bigot, neo-Nazi, animal hater, or a religious zealot.

Always Conduct a Criminal Background Check on Applicants

While social media certainly helps you determine things about the person’s character and preferences, their deeper and darker secrets may not be evident. That’s why it’s imperative that a complete investigation is conducted via a background check. For landlords who are new to the business of renting out rooms or properties, there are a wealth of resources available including top-tier background search sites such as Truth Finder. A complete report can easily be generated in a matter of minutes.

Background search companies are efficient at what they do, and they can provide valuable information that will instantly discredit an applicant from consideration. Things like criminal history, bankruptcy, judgments, liens, sex offender misconduct, arrests, DWI, DUI convictions and the like can easily be picked up. A tenant with a criminal past is a danger, especially if that tenant is a felon. The Department of Justice has a national sex offender public website where easy screening of tenants is possible. There are also other public resources such as the National Center for State Courts which can be used to assist landlords run a background check.

Further, a credit check report is always a good idea. Since the purpose of renting an apartment or a room is the receipt of a regular income stream, creditworthiness is important. If a credit report reveals that the roommate is untrustworthy and unreliable, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere. A tenant who has racked up too much debt and has maxed out his/her credit cards should not be considered. If there is any hesitancy from the tenant when a credit check is suggested, this may be a sign that the tenant has something to hide. All of the above checks should be conducted to verify the credibility of the person in question.