How to Perform a Landlord Background Check

You’ve found the perfect new apartment or rental house. You love the neighborhood. Your application has been approved. You’re ready to sign on the dotted line, right?

Not so fast. How much do you know about your soon-to-be landlord, property manager or property management company?

There are lots of reasons why you should take the time to ask yourself, “Who is my landlord?” before you commit. Your rent payment is likely one of your biggest monthly expenses, and if you’re signing a lengthy lease, you should find out as much as you can about the person who owns and operates the place you’ll call home.

Check out these five easy ways to check your landlord’s reputation before signing your lease.

1. Make Google your friend

The internet has a way of quickly uncovering all kinds of misdeeds, so start with a simple Google search of your landlord’s name or property management company, as well as the property address.

Hell hath no fury like a renter scorned, so you’ll also want to peruse some of the many apartment and landlord review sites online that let tenants anonymously review their apartment complex, landlord or property management company.

2. Search public records

There’s a wealth of information about properties and landlords available via your local government agencies, and you’re usually able to check your landlord for free. Consider it your landlord background check!

Your county courthouse should have ownership records searchable by address, so you can find out the legal name of the person or company that owns the property – it may not be your landlord directly.

You can also search for code violations, foreclosure proceedings, evictions and small claims court settlements, all of which should be red flags for renters.

3. Get to know your (future) neighbors

If you’re moving into an apartment complex with multiple units, take a few minutes to walk around the grounds out of earshot of the landlord.

If you see any tenants out and about, strike up a conversation about what it’s like to live there. Ask how long they’ve lived there – renewed leases are a good sign of a positive landlord-tenant relationship. Get a few pros and cons, ask how complaints are handled, and find out if they have any gripes about management.

If you’re moving into a single-family home, ask the landlord if they’d mind you having a conversation with the current tenants.

If you don’t have access to any other tenants, find a neighborhood-specific blog or Facebook group to join. Tell people you’re thinking of moving into the area, and ask if they know anything about the property manager. In these hyperlocal groups, you’re likely to gain some invaluable insights for your landlord check.

4. Be the interviewer

Landlords ask you questions when you apply to live in their property, so why shouldn’t you ask them questions too?

Ask them how they handle repair requests. Find out if the landlord lives on-site, nearby or even in a different state. Ask how the move-in and move-out process goes. Learn more about their process for requesting entry to your unit.

They should be able to easily, clearly answer your questions and address all of your concerns.

5. Go with your gut

When in doubt, trust your instincts. If you experience any of the following:

  • The price seems too low for the apartment size, amenities or neighborhood
  • The lease terms are unclear
  • The landlord is hesitant to answer your questions
  • The landlord tries to rush you through the rental process

Think twice – and keep looking.