How Do Apartment Complexes Check Your Rental History?

Apartment Complexes check an applicant’s Rental History by asking for a written statement that has the names, addresses, and dates on them for when the applicant stayed there.  

The other way that an apartment complex can check up on your rental history is by looking for it in a Credit Check they do as part of the application process.  Any evictions or delinquencies in payment will show up here for at least 7 years.  

Regardless of whether you are wanting your apartment complex to have a credit check, wondering if they check the reference on the rental history you gave them, or are hoping to avoid having the place you are applying to doesn’t run one at all, this article is for you!  

I will be going over what is on your Rental History, how apartment complexes follow up on this information, and if you can get an apartment even if you have a less than stellar rental history. 

Can I Get An Apartment With No Rental History?

Of course, you can get an apartment with no rental history!  Everyone has to start with their first rental experience somewhere.  Bad rental history is worse than no rental history. 

The whole reason landlords want to see a rental history is to check and see how good of a renter that person was.  How well did they treat the last place they lived at?  Did they pay their rent on time and in full?  Did they cause any problems of note that the new landlord should be aware about?  

Lucky for you, if you don’t have a rental history at all, you aren’t going to have to worry about any of these things.  If you have never been evicted, then you never have to worry about what a landlord is going to say about that to someplace new you are applying for. 

While a good rental history is kind of the same as good credit in the way that the better it is, the smoother the road for you, it isn’t necessarily the end-all for your renting experience. 

If rental history was the end-all, how did anyone rent an apartment the first time?  Don’t get me wrong, rental history matters, but coming from a landlord, someone having NO rental history is preferable to someone having a BAD rental history.   

Not that I haven’t been burned by renting to first-time renters, because I have and it sucks, the odds that the renters will be good are MUCH better with first-time renters than with renters with a bad rental history.  

With bad rental history, you already KNOW how a person has conducted themselves in a rental environment.  And when the best predictor of future behavior is past actions, a rental history says a lot. 

Even if your apartment application insists you put something down for your rental history, put your parents’ house if you have to.  Just the honesty with the landlord is going to say a lot more than just making something up you are going to be found out for when the landlord calls the references. 

Just tell them this is your first time renting.  It’s not the first time they have had a first time renter, trust me.  It’s not a bad thing, just something you have to be conscious about. 

Their PRIMARY concern is that you make enough money to pay the bills.  The rest of the hoops, the credit check, the background check, etc., all is secondary to this.  Show them that you are a good risk to take, prove that you have enough money to rent the apartment, 

How Far Back Does Rental History Report?

The rental history on your credit report will show any issues going back approximately 7 years.  If you are showing a potential landlord your own rental report, usually about 5 years back is all they are going to want. 

The period of time isn’t worth as much as what the QUALITY of the report shows.  

Landlords want to see that you have been a great tenant in the last places you have lived and are moving and wanting to move in with them because they got a new job, just moved to town, or are looking for a better place than they are not.   NOT because they were evicted or having other issues at the complex. 

Your credit report is going to potentially be the most telling of the resources that your new landlord can wield.  Even if you were evicted when you were 19 and just out of high school and not really know what you were doing, that eviction will still be on your record when you are 26!! 

Keeping your credit report clean of any evictions or delinquent payments is crucial!!

Your credit report is going to go back approximately 7 years give or take.  If the complex is just asking you to fill in a section on the application and you are just providing your own rental history, 5 years is usually where they cut it off.  

Keep in mind that if an apartment complex doesn’t run a credit check and simply asks for your rental history, chances are they WILL follow up with them.  I wrote an article because so many people were asking whether or not landlords REALLY do call other landlords, and the answer is a resounding YES!!

In fact, just the other day, another landlord in my town called me unsolicited.  Remember that this place is my COMPETITION.  They called to tell us about a particular individual they just evicted, what happened, and by no means should we rent to them unless we want problems. 

Now, this was a landlord calling other landlords in town, on their own.  You can be assured that they are going to follow up with the references you put down on your application. 

Is My Rental History On My Credit Report?

Only delinquencies in payment and evictions will be shown on your Credit Report. 

This is another reason why running a credit report is so important to landlords.  They are able to quickly and easily see if the person applying has had any problems with renting in the past.  

Now, of course, this doesn’t mean everything, but a few late car payments aren’t going to mean a hill of beans to the landlord as opposed to a single eviction.  Many apartment complexes use a prior eviction as the mark of death for an applicant.  They just don’t want to take a chance on the same thing happening to them and losing a bunch of money in the process. 

What your credit report isn’t going to have is every place you have stayed without causing problems.  This is a good thing.  A credit report absent of any notifications is exactly what a landlord wants to see.  Maybe things didn’t work out the BEST in the last place the applicant stayed, but at least there are no evictions on their record or collections coming after them for past due rent.  

How Can I Obtain My Rental History Report?

As a tenant, you can request a free copy of your credit history (which will have inquiries into your rental history).  You can do this once every 12 month period for free as per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

There are two different ways to obtain information about anything that may be in your rental history.  The first is to use resources that are based just on tenant activity.   These would include the following…

The other primary way is to check with the three main credit reporting agencies… Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.   These companies all operate under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and will be able to give you access to your credit history, which will include any inquiries regarding your rent history. 

Can I Get An Apartment With No Rental History?

Having no rental history is better than having a bad rental history.  No rental history rarely prevents someone from getting an apartment as the primary purpose of rental history is to see problems.  

As I mentioned above, having no history is leaps and bounds better than having a bad history.  Yes, there is a bit of uncertainty that the landlord is going to have to deal with because you are a first-time renter, but that can be overcome if you prove your income source, have references, or even get a cosigner.   

When compared to each other, an eviction or delinquencies in payment are going to be MUCH more concerning to a landlord than someone without a record at all. 

Do Landlords Really Call Other Landlords?

Landlords absolutely call other landlords.  The frequency of them checking up on any given reference will largely be in part due to the culmination of other information given to them during the application process. 

I have not stopped being amazed at how many times I get the question as to whether or not landlords follow up on references, income, and past landlords.  I guess there is a ton of people who are either making fake references or just hoping that their new landlord is too lazy to check up.  

Due diligence is a key step in the process of a landlord approving someone to live in their apartment complex.  This is one of the tools a landlord has in their toolbox that helps with determining whether or not they should approve a particular applicant or not.  

As a landlord, I know all about this, calling other landlords, checking up on references, and doing background and credit checks.  Trust me, IT MATTERS.  

If you have a landlord that either doesn’t require rental history, or is just too lazy to check up on the reference the person provides, chances are they are lazy in their apartment business as well, and you can probably expect a ton of people who you probably don’t want to be living next door to actually living there, and the apartment complex to not be in the best of condition. 

As a renter and tenant, this is the last thing you want.  Give the apartment complex you are renting to a bit of a check of your own.  What hoops do they make tenants jump through to get in?  Because, while it may be a hassle for you, those are the hurdles keeping people out you don’t want to be living next to. 

How Do I Find My Rental History?

Find your rental history by contacting a credit agency and requesting your free report which is assured under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. 

You can get one free report run for you in any given 12 month period, and they are fairly easy to obtain through one of the big credit agencies.   TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax are the three biggest credit reporting agencies. 

Keep in mind that when you have them run your report, if it comes back fairly blank and devoid of information, that is a GOOD THING.  Your credit report is ONLY going to have things called “inquiries” in them.  These are negative things that have happened during the last 7 years that are a stain on your record.  A clean record is an empty report. 

If you don’t have anything to show a landlord on a credit report, chances are that they are going to ask for SOME information about where you have been staying for the last couple of years.  In this case, simply write up or type up a list of the last few places you have stayed, along with addresses, the landlord’s name, and the dates you stayed there.  This will be more than sufficient.  

Landlords and tenants alike can check their rental history by running a credit report for free under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  If there is nothing on the report regarding your rental history that is great!  That means there is nothing there to see.

If your landlord still insists on some sort of rental history, simply write or type one up for them in case they want to check up on a reference you gave. 

In the end, remember that being a great tenant will follow you around the same as a bad rental report, so be a great tenant!!

Recommended for You:

Apartments With No Credit Check

What If My Apartment Application Was Denied?

What Questions Should I Ask When Apartment Hunting?

John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

Recent Posts