Who pays for background checks: tenant or landlord?

If you're a tenant or a landlord wondering who should pay for a background check, you've come to the right place. In this article, we'll dive into the details of this commonly asked question and provide you with a comprehensive answer.

May 4, 2023

4 min read


Background check basics

Before we discuss who pays for a background check, let's first understand what it entails. A background check is a process that involves investigating an individual's criminal, financial, and personal history to assess their suitability as a tenant. This typically includes checking for criminal records, credit history, employment verification, rental history, and other relevant information.

Now, who is responsible for covering the cost of a background check: the tenant or the landlord?

Tenant-paid background checks

In many cases, tenants are required to pay for their own background checks. This is because landlords and property management companies often use background checks as a way to screen potential tenants and ensure they are reliable and trustworthy. As such, tenants are typically responsible for the associated costs.

It's important for tenants to be aware of the potential costs of a background check, which can vary depending on the screening company and the depth of the investigation. However, paying for a background check is generally considered a standard part of the rental application process, and tenants should be prepared to cover this expense.

When possible, prospective renters should suggest a reusable tenant background check like RentSpree offers as part of its universal rental application. This means the report can be shared with multiple landlords and leasing offices with just the one-time fee.

Landlord-paid background checks

While it is more common for tenants to pay for their own background checks, there are cases where landlords may choose to cover the cost themselves. This is often the case in highly competitive rental markets, where landlords may be eager to attract qualified tenants and are willing to absorb the cost of the background check as an incentive.

In some instances, landlords may also choose to pay for background checks for certain groups of tenants, such as students or low-income applicants, as a way to make the application process more accessible and inclusive.

RentSpree offers this choice to landlords, property managers and rental agents.

Key considerations for tenants and landlords

When it comes to who pays for a background check, it's essential for both tenants and landlords to understand their rights and responsibilities. Here are some key considerations:

Rental laws and regulations: Background check laws can vary by state and local jurisdiction, so it's crucial to be familiar with the legal requirements in your area. Some states may have specific rules on who can pay for a background check and how much can be charged.

Rental market dynamics: The rental market in your area can also impact who pays for a background check. In highly competitive markets, landlords may be more likely to cover the cost themselves to attract quality tenants. In contrast, in less competitive markets, tenants may be expected to foot the bill.

Rental application process: The rental application process may also impact who pays for a background check. Some landlords may require tenants to pay for their own background check upfront, while others may reimburse tenants if they are approved for the rental property.

Rental agreement terms: The terms of the rental agreement should also be considered. If the rental agreement clearly states that the tenant is responsible for the cost of the background check, then the tenant should be prepared to pay for it.


While either a tenant or landlord can pay for a background check, it's important for both to understand their rights and responsibilities. In many cases, tenants are expected to pay for their own background checks, but there may be instances where landlords choose to cover the cost. Understanding the local laws, rental market dynamics, and rental agreement terms can help ensure a smooth rental application process for all parties involved.


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