Thursday, May 21, 2009


So.... I am getting emails from people with P.I. questions.
I figured this question/anser thing might be an interesting way to keep helping... and keep posting... on days I'm out working cases and scenes. I've deleted names and contact info from the emails for obvious privacy reasons.
If you have a question to ask and you can figure out how to ask it here, (which i can't because I am trully technically dyslexic) email me or friend me on Facebook.
Hi Susan,
I received your email information from Mark. W. First, thank you for offering to assist.
I am interested in learning some basics about background checks. I am planning on leasing a residential property out for some extra income. A friend of mine suggested that I do a background check on the potential renters. My questions are:
· H How can I go about doing this in a cost effective way?
· Is Is it legal for me to conduct background checks provided that I obtain the potential renters’ consent to do so?
Thank you.
Hi Kelly!

I am getting this question a lot.
It is legal for you to conduct a background check provided you follow your individual state and federal laws. You just have to do backgrounds the right way... within legal parameters... or you can and will be sued in a court of law.

Yes, you will need the renter's consent to run a a background.
Lots of people run backgrounds everyday without consent, but those are not the same kinds of backgrounds which you are doing. Yours is related to a business, in which you have a fiduciary interest. You also have a legal obligation to comply with federal and state public disclosure and privacy laws.

You will obviously need need a rental application from the person your are leasing/renting to. Your will need a release/signature/letter that allows you to do the background and credit check. check.
You will need someone to call previous landlords and references. You will need someone savvy to do that because drawing information out of people can be tricky.
You will need a credit report, and you will definitely need a release for that or the Feds will get you.

In WA State, Investigators have to get a released signed by the person we are running the report on; authorizing the release of his own report and specifically naming the Investigator.

I am not sure how you'd do it exactl... you being a non-Investigator, non-Realtor type, who can legally access the credit report part.

I have heard cases where you have the renter run the report for you. I think there are companies that provide those services for realtors. You can call a local property management firm and pick their brains and they'll give up all the info for free if you are nice enough to them.

You will need to know bad guys and bad girls lie. Big time.
And good people hit hard times. People all over are losing their homes, if you judge them on their good character, need and reference, despite their bad credit, you could be bringing a wonderful, caring family into your home... and your karma could be rewarded.
Or not.
Like mine, your job is a blend of data and deduction.

Re: the bad people -- On their apps, they could say they lived here and here and there...
and they will omit the "there" part where they have some criminal/sex offense charge. There is no one national database that will list national criminal charges unless you work for the FBO, government or police agencies. You have to go yourself, physically, or via cyber-surfing, from state to state...and county to county.... and if you miss a key county or charge, you could ultimately be liable for any illegal activity your renter commits on your property.

A good friend of mine was torn between hiring a leasing company to do this for him, doing it himself, or hiring an investigator. He decided to call a property management company and I haven't heard from him since. So, I suspect he found his answers.

Hope some of this helps!!!!



  1. Would like to hear more answers to questions!

  2. and Susan would like to have more questions to answer.too bad message boards are archac, wise cyber one.