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You want your tenant background check report to be accurate because it affects whether you get rental housing. Your report also can affect the terms of your lease and how much you pay for rent or a security deposit. Check your report and dispute any mistakes in it.

Mistakes in Your Report Can Hurt You

If you’re looking for a new place to rent, a landlord, property manager, or other housing provider may hire a company to perform a background check on you and other members of your household. Generally, these companies are called tenant background check or tenant screening companies and the check is called a tenant background check report, resident screening report, or tenant screening report. The information in your report can affect whether you get rental housing or the terms of your lease. Mistakes can cause a landlord to charge you more for rent or to require you to put down a larger security deposit or have a co-signer. For more information, check out Tenant Background Checks and Your Rights.  

Review Your Report for Mistakes 

Under federal law, companies that put together tenant background check reports must take reasonable steps to ensure the information in the reports is accurate, but your report may still have wrong information. Typically, you may learn of negative information in your report only when a landlord lets you know that they have made a negative decision about your application for housing based on your report. This notification is called an “adverse action” notice. The landlord can give you this notice in writing, electronically, or orally, but the notice must always tell you the name, address, and phone number for the company that supplied the background check report and that you have the right to get a free copy of your report (within 60 days) and to dispute mistakes in it. If they give you the notice orally, ask them if they would be willing to get you a written copy for your records.

If you get an adverse action notice, get your report. Ask the landlord if they would be willing to share the report with you or contact the background check company within 60 days to ask for your free copy of the report.

Review your report. Check it closely to confirm that information belongs to you, is accurate, and is up to date. Look into these details:

  • Is your identifying information correct? Check that your first, middle, and last names, birth date, address, and Social Security number are accurate.
  • Are criminal court records listed yours? Check that any court records come from the correct court and that they are from you and not someone with a similar name, birth date, or address.
  • Can your criminal court records still be reported? If so, make sure the report has the correct and most up-to-date information about the charge, date, and disposition (such as dismissal).
    • Arrests can be reported for seven years from the date of entry or until the statute of limitations expires (whichever is longer).
    • Criminal convictions have no time limit for reporting.
    • Sealed or expunged records should not show up in any report.
  • Do the credit accounts and debts in your credit report belong to you? If so, check that they aren’t too old to be reported. Most negative information cannot be reported after seven years. Bankruptcies can be reported for 10 years.
    • Are there other mistakes? For example, are the payments that you made accurately reported? Does the report have the correct account status, such as open, current, or closed? 
  • Do the eviction records listed belong to you and are they still allowed to be reported? Eviction court cases can be reported for up to seven years from the date of the eviction filing, even if you are not evicted. Sealed or expunged records should not show up on your report. Check if reportable eviction cases reflect the correct and most up-to-date information about the cases. For instance, if you settled a case with the landlord or paid any money you owed, confirm that’s reported accurately.
  • Is your rental payment history reported accurately? If something negative is there — for instance, you didn’t pay rent, missed payments, or didn’t make the full payments — is it yours? If so, the background check report is not allowed to include negative history that’s more than seven years old.
  • Do any listed civil lawsuits or bankruptcy cases belong to you? Are they too old to be reported? Civil cases can be reported for seven years and bankruptcy cases can be reported for 10 years. Check to make sure the information about the cases is correct, including the outcome or current status.

How To Correct Mistakes in Your Report

Dispute the information with the background check report company

You have the right to dispute information that’s inaccurate, outdated, or not yours. Under the law, background check companies must conduct a reasonable investigation of the information.

  • Submit a dispute directly to the company that put together your report. Describe the issue and include copies of any supporting documents.
  • It may help the company better address your dispute, and prevent delays down the road, if you provide as much information as you have. If you contacted the company by phone, follow up in writing.
  • Let the landlord know about your dispute.
  • Generally, the background check company must investigate your dispute — and tell you the results — within 30 days. In some cases, they may have 45 days. Some states impose shorter deadlines.

If the background check company finds that the disputed information is inaccurate, incomplete, or cannot be confirmed, it must delete or correct the information. If the background check company makes a correction to your report, get a copy of the updated report to the landlord and ask the background check company to also notify the landlord.

Dispute mistakes with creditors

If your background check report contains incorrect information about money you owe (for example, showing that you missed a student loan or credit card payment) or about your rental payment history (for example, showing that you missed a rental payment to your last landlord)

  • Contact the person or company you owed that money to and tell them that the information they reported about you was wrong.
  • Send any paperwork to show that you made the correct payment when it was due.

If the information they reported was wrong, they must report those corrections to any background check company or other consumer reporting agency they reported the information to. For more information, read Disputing Errors on Your Credit Reports.

Correct mistakes with the courts

A criminal, civil, or housing court might have incorrect information if there’s a previous case about you in its records. For instance, a housing court may have dismissed your landlord’s eviction case against you and you were not evicted. But the records may be wrong and say you were evicted. If you settled the case with the landlord or paid any money you owed, you may be able to submit that information to the court.

  • Ask the landlord to submit updated or correct information to the court along with a request to the court to update or correct its records. Asking for this assistance in writing may increase the chances of getting cooperation from your landlord. Tell the background check company once the court corrects the information.
  • Contact those courts to ask them to correct the information and supply any supporting documents you have. Some courts have local self-help centers that may be able to assist you in cleaning up your record, including filing motions to vacate a judgment (that is, to legally overturn or reverse a court ruling) or to mark judgments as satisfied (that is, to note that you have paid everything you owed), or to seal your records so they cannot be reported.
    • Self-help with the courts. Check the National Center for State Courts’ directory of courts in every state. Check your state’s court site for a “Help” or “Self-Help” section for more information about help with correcting your records.
    • Legal aid. If your local court does not have a self-help center, contact your local legal aid office to discuss your options for correcting or updating this information. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is a nonprofit organization that helps fund free or low-cost legal services. Check LSC’s directory to see whether there’s a legal aid provider near you. Law Help is a program of Pro Bono Net, a national nonprofit to help people without lawyers understand their rights and connect to help in their local community. Check their directory of lower cost legal help in your state.
    • Local attorney. Check the American Bar Association’s directory of state bar associations. Some state bars offer resources to help people find a private lawyer licensed in that state.
  • Tell the background check company and landlord once the court corrects the information.

If the Investigation Doesn’t Resolve Your Dispute

Ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. Ask that the background check company give your statement, or a summary of it, to anyone who got a copy of your report in the last six months — the background check company may charge you a fee to do this.

Getting Help

Your city or state may offer additional legal protections. Check with someone who knows about laws in your area that may protect you from inaccurate or discriminatory tenant background checks and screening. That might be your local fair housing organizationstate attorney generallocal legal aid or legal services office, or other local lawyer

Report to the FTC

The FTC wants to know if a background check company provided a report about you to a landlord with inaccurate or outdated information, didn’t investigate your dispute properly, or if a landlord didn’t give you a proper adverse action notice. If you’ve experienced one of these issues, submit a report to the FTC in English at or in Spanish at To submit a report in other languages, call (877) 382-4357 and press 3 to speak to an interpreter in your language. Lines open from 9-5 ET.