Ohio Background Checks

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Ohio Background Checks

Background checks are a vital part of thorough tenant screening. Every landlord needs to know the history of every applicant. Background checks give you a good idea of whether someone makes payment on time, stays out of massive debt, has a criminal past, and a lot more.

 

Background checks reduce the chances of tenant turnover, protect you from liability, and help you and other tenants remain safe.

 

In this article, we’ll help you understand what background checks consist of, how to ensure you get the information you need, and what you need to know about your state’s rules regarding them. 

What are Background Checks?

  1. Credit Report: Aside from a lease agreement, a tenant credit might be the most crucial document for a landlord to understand. This document is one of the best ways to determine whether someone will pay on time and in full. Here are the main components of a credit report:
    • Basic information like former names/aliases, current and previous addresses, etc.
    • Fraud indicators like invalid phone numbers or phony social security numbers
    • Tradeline summaries that give a snapshot of an applicant’s active accounts
    • Inquiries that show a list of companies who viewed an applicant’s credit file over the last two years
    • Credit/resident score
    • Winter weather damage

    The credit score and the resident score are key. A credit score is a numerical value anywhere from 300-850 that helps illuminate an applicant’s creditworthiness. If an applicant has a score of 500 or less, proceed with caution. Most reliable tenants will ave a score above 560. A resident score is similar to a credit score, but more directly reflects someone’s reliability as a tenant. Both scores are proprietary, so the exact formulas aren’t available to the public. That said, resident scores typically include a recommendation on whether to accept an applicant or not (this shouldn’t be treated as gospel obviously, but it’s helpful).

  2. Criminal History: Wide-sweeping national databases, more narrow specific state databases, and granular county records are the main elements of most criminal history reports.
  3. Income Verification: There are several ways to verify income. Let’s look at some of the most common here: whether someone will pay on time and in full. Here are the main components of a credit report:
    • Pay Stubs: Paychecks are the most common way to verify income. Anyone with full-time or part-time employment can make copies of paychecks and send them to you.
    • Yearly Tax Returns: A federal tax return is another option to obtain proof of income. This is often an excellent option because it’s an official legal document, so it’s difficult to fake.
    • W-2 Tax Form: These forms show employer’s withholding payroll taxes from workers’ earnings. This is another good option because it’s a document directly from an employer.
    • Bank Statements: This method is especially effective for self-employed applicants because they won’t have regular pay stubs like those who work for traditional businesses.

    Important Note: Innago’s new income verification feature, which you can learn more about here, makes it easier than ever to ensure your tenants have the necessary funds to pay you

  4. Eviction History: Except in cases where overdue rent went to collections or a previous landlord reports late payments, credit reports don’t usually show evictions.  Federal law typically prevents evictions from being shown on a background check after seven years, but this figure varies by state
    If you cannot see an applicant’s eviction history on a credit report or obtain the information by contacting their previous landlords, then you may pull an eviction report. However, certain states have restrictions on different kinds of reports (we’ll address those if they’re relevant later in this piece).
    Eviction history matters because the cost of an eviction for landlords is often between $4,000 and $7,000 or more. That means that if a tenant was evicted, they likely left their previous landlord with no other choice.
  5. Application: A rental application is a preliminary form used to obtain basic information about an applicant and their eligibility. Most applications ask for this information:
    • Landlord References: Contact previous landlords and get their take on applicants. This is a critical step that some landlords skip over. Make sure you’re not one of those landlords.
    • Employment History: You want to know current and former employers and get consent to contact them.
    • Written Permission to Run a Credit Check
    • Legal Disclosures: Here’s a helpful article on what disclosures to include.
    • Additional Inquiries: Be careful here. Make sure you don’t ask questions that violate laws. Only ask about things like pets or smoking. And make sure you’re consistent.

Why Do You Need to Run Background Checks?

Background checks in general are utilized by a variety of groups: landlords, employers, lenders, licensing agencies, government agencies, etc. Tenant screening or employment background checks are run to ensure that a candidate for a job, license, property, or loan is properly qualified and does not have a history of behavior that would interfere with their ability to perform the duties required under contract. Background checks minimize legal liability, protect companies’ assets and current employees, and are sometimes required by clients.

 

When it comes to landlords, background checks are needed to: 

    • Protect the safety and property of other tenants
    • Reduce tenant turnover
    • Minimize legal liability
    • Increase the likelihood of on-time rental payments
    • Avoid conflict and crime in the rental community
    • Narrow down applicants for a high-demand property
    • Prevent expensive and lengthy eviction processes

Ohio Background Checks

Landlords in the Buckeye State should run an Ohio background check on potential tenants as a precaution and general policy. Here are three reasons to run background checks in Ohio:  

  1. Identify rental application fraud  

Rental application fraud, which occurs when a tenant lies on their application or submits falsified pay stubs, bank statements, etc., is on the rise. A 2022 study by Snappt done in America found that almost 10% of the nearly 50,000 applicants it reviewed falsified documents, which indicates an issue in the U.S. Running an Ohio background check can help you catch fraudulent documents and inconsistent information before someone moves into your property, lowering your chances of dealing with an expensive eviction later.  

  1. Avoid future evictions  

Evicting a tenant in Ohio isn’t a process every landlord wants to avoid, in part because it can take between five and eight weeks. The rising eviction rates in Columbus reflect most of Ohio generally speaking, which means this is something landlords need to be cognizant of. And — because tenants with a previous eviction are more likely to be evicted againunderstanding an applicant’s eviction history is essential for avoiding turnover.   

  1. Learn about the existence or nature of illegal activity  

It’s also important to run criminal background checks in Ohio. Per the Ohio Department of Corrections, the three-year recidivism rate is almost 33%. While landlords cannot have a blanket policy for denying citizens with a criminal history record, certain crimes (like sex crimes) restrict housing options and can be valid reasons to deny a tenant. It’s important to conduct background checks because it helps you understand potential tenants better and gain awareness of criminal history that may impact an applicant’s ability to be a good tenant. 

What do Background Checks in Ohio Cost?

Background checks are fairly affordable across the U.S., but their costs vary depending on the area searched and the level of information requested. Searching national records typically costs between $13-60 per person, while searching an individual state’s records like Ohio typically costs between $10 and $30 per person (e.g., the Bureau of Criminal Investigation BCI charges $30 for an Ohio BCI background check to get criminal records). County records, which tend to be more accurate and up to date, cost $16-$25 per person per county checked. You can learn more about each of these specific types of background checks in our article on the topic 

Which Laws Apply to Ohio Background Checks?

An Ohio background check cannot be used by anyone for any purpose. Due to fair housing protections, the use of credit reports and criminal background checks is restricted.  

Based on Ohio background check laws, it’s typically legal to deny a prospective tenant based on the results of their criminal background check (if a conviction is involved), but it must be clear how their record makes them dangerous to other tenants or neighbors. Always remember that you should get tenants’ written consent to a background check OH considers compliant before running one.  

Ohio is a ban-the-box state when it comes to the public sector. This ban the box law prevents employers from asking about criminal history on job applications during pre-employment background checks. This rule doesn’t apply to the private sector in the hiring process, but people should still be careful not to engage in discriminatory practices. 

If you decide to deny an applicant, it’s critical to know rules and regulations regarding rejecting potential renters. Read this article to review legal reasons for denial and how to abide by the Fair Housing Act. If you deny an applicant based on information in consumer reports, you’ll need to send them an “adverse action” notice. Read more about these notices here. 

Before you run a background check OH, be sure to research state and local background check laws and federal regulations. Keep in mind that while all Ohio counties are subject to state laws and executive orders, some counties may enforce additional regulations. Be sure you’re educated on the law in your region and adhere to the HUD’s recommendations 

How far back do Background Checks in Ohio go?

When you use consumer reports to make tenant decisions, you must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). 

  

Section § 605 – 15 U.S.C. § 1681c of The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies in all 50 states and mandates a seven-year restriction on reporting certain background check information like civil suits, civil judgments, and arrest records (except in certain cases where an employer is hiring for a job with a salary more than $75,000). The FCRA doesn’t have similar timeline restrictions on criminal convictions, but some states restrict reporting conviction information at the local level. 

 

There are no additional notable state laws of this nature in Ohio, but individual cities or counties may have additional restrictions. 

How to Run Background Checks in Ohio?

When conducting background checks in Ohio, most people use a third-party provider. However, you can run one yourself. If you run a DIY background check, your best bet is probably getting criminal history from an Ohio BCI background check, contact an applicant’s former landlords and employers, obtain a credit report (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three major credit reporting agencies that compile credit information), verify income, look at the sex offender registry, and ensure you have all the information you need to conduct thorough tenant screening. DIY checks can be very risky, though, because it’s easier to run afoul of laws inadvertently (unless you’re extremely well-versed in the law). They can also be quite time-consuming. 

The better option for most landlords is hiring a third-party provider (who often bundle credit, resident, criminal, and eviction histories together as a package). You can select the kind of reporting you need and let the third-party take care of the collection process. 

Background Checks with Innago

At Innago, we’ve partnered with TransUnion SmartMove to help you review background check information and identify high quality applicants. Running a background check through Innago allows you to quickly and easily identify the best applicants and ensure their application information is accurate. Likewise, Innago’s income verification feature helps our users verify reported income by connecting to their bank account, payroll provider, or by uploading documents. 

 

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend you consult with professional counsel if you have legal questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with relevant laws.