How Long Does Tenant Screening Take and How to Speed It Up?

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Updated · Aug 01, 2023

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With more than five years of experience in the background check industry, Ritesh Kumar founded Looku... | See full bio

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Dushko Talevski


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Tenant screening is a critical step in the rental process as property owners must verify the personal and financial stability of applicants before renting out to them.

But how long does tenant screening take? Depending on how thoroughly landlords check the candidate, it may be done in a couple of hours or take up to a few days.

Below we go over everything it includes and tell you how to speed it up!

Time Estimates for Tenant Background Checks

Since the turnaround time for a tenant background check varies on a case-by-case basis, we take a look at how long each specific step in the process takes:

  • Identity verification—confirming whether or not the applicant is who they say they are takes minutes as landlords only need to see an official photo ID;
  • Rental history—takes time when done manually since owners have to contact and get the candidate’s rental history from their previous landlords; detailed reports that include payments, damages, and behavior take even longer;
  • Credit checks—the most important step is verifying the tenant’s financial stability by checking their creditworthiness, and it may take up to several hours depending on the service used and how quickly the check is approved;
    • If there’s a co-signer involved, the time length doubles.
  • Employment and proof of income—W-2 statements, pay stubs, or bank reports can be checked in minutes and prove regular income, but verifying the applicant’s employment history requires contacting their current and past employers;
  • Criminal history—takes a while to complete since city, county, and state criminal reports take up to several days to be submitted, processed, and issued, and their processing time is further affected by the data they include;
  • Personal references—to alleviate any doubts they have about a candidate, landlords may also ask for personal references; however, contacting and checking with co-workers, friends, and employers may take a whole day.

Provided there are no delays, landlords who thoroughly follow all these steps will receive the full tenant screening results in about 2 to 3 days.

Learn more about background checks and what they cover in our handy guide.

What Affects the Duration of a Tenant Background Check?

Needless to say, several unexpected factors may delay the screening process, especially if the landlord does not know how to run a background check on a tenant:

  • Inaccurate information—tenants return inaccurate and/or incomplete rental applications to their landlords, which, naturally, extends the time needed to finalize the screening process as they need to reapply;
  • Lack of credit historycredit scores are an important indicator of the applicant’s ability to pay his or her rent on time; therefore, potential tenants without an established credit will have to prove their reliabiltiy by involving a co-signer;
  • Trouble verifying names—whether consciously or not, some candidates also fail to provide their full name, which is a crucial piece of information needed to complete all other steps of the screening procedure;
  • Numerous past addresses—approving applicants who have lived in more than a few places over the years takes a while as owners have to verify their rental history and check why they are changing addresses so regularly;
  • Lack of digital records—online databases are not infallible and now and then some digital records may be inaccessible either because they haven’t been entered yet or the online system offering the service is down for the moment;
  • Slow response times—the process may also be prolonged due to national holidays or because landlords are still waiting for their queries regarding the applicant to be answered; nothing to do to speed up the process in such cases.

Note: Landlords can eliminate most of these factors and speed up the process by utilizing an online tenant check service that completes most screening steps.

How to Speed Up the Turnaround Time for Tenant Screening?

To reduce the chances of potential delays and speed up the tenant screening process, applicants and landlords can follow a few rules of thumb:

What can tenants do?

What can landlords do?

  • Carefully read and follow the application instructions;
  • Do not leave any empty boxes and provide as much detail as possible;
  • Minimize errors with digital applications instead of paper ones;
  • Submit all documentation and information required by the owner;
  • Design a straightforward application with simple questions;
  • Double-check your answers before submitting your application.
  • Establish clear and detailed rental criteria and publish them everywhere.

Bottom Line

As you can see, tenant screenings take 2–3 days on average since landlords must verify everything from the applicant’s financial viability to their rental history. By doing so, they eliminate unreliable applicants who are likely to violate the conditions of the contract, damage the property, or even conduct criminal activities from that location.


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