Landlords are given access to tenants' criminal, credit and rental histories, yet tenants are not allowed equal access to landlords' criminal, credit and rental histories. Talking to past tenants would be as helpful to a potentially new tenant, as talking to ex-landlords is to landlords considering new tenants. How many batterers and child molesters rent to single mothers in poverty and the women have no access to the landlords' criminal histories in the rental process? Recently, I was battered by my landlord and it has brought to light how vulnerable tenants are having no access to landlords' criminal and other histories. I believe potential landlords should have to pay potential tenants to run *their* background checks the same way tenants have to pay landlords to run their background checks.
It should be somewhat obvious why knowing your landlord's criminal history would be helpful to potential tenants. We don't know, as renters, if we're renting from stalkers, batterers, weenie wagers, robbers or child molesters! Landlords have tremendous power over low-income people who are desperate to find housing with very limited resources. And housing is contingent upon not making your landlord mad. Resisting sexual advances can make a landlord mad; I've had it happen to me in the past. There is really little to no protection for the renter in this whole landlord-tenant equation.
Additionally, knowing your landlords' credit history would let you know if they have proper finances to make decent, timely repairs, etc. I recently saw a turn-off notice for the property on my landlord's door which is alarming. My recent landlords took nearly 2 months to do a 2 week maximum repair due to trying to be cheap and getting around proper repairs with unlicensed workers. I can see how a tenant would prefer a landlord with a strong credit rating just as much as a landlord prefers tenants with high credit scores.
And finally, landlords talk to the previous landlords of potential new tenants, but we tenants have no right to speak to former tenants. I believe if you spoke to the last 4 tenants of my current landlord, you would get an earful of bad reviews. Most bad landlords have patterns, just as much as a "tenant risk" does. Talking to former tenants should be part of the application process, alike speaking to past landlords. There need to be databases of bad landlords the same way there are databases of tenants with evictions. And landlords should need to provide past tenant referrals to future tenants, where we can speak to them directly and privately, the same way landlords ask for landlord referral phone numbers from renters.
The reality of this unfair playing field really shows how the tenant/renter takes the brunt of the burden in this landlord-tenant contract. There is *not* an arm's length bargaining power present in the landlord-tenant contract, although that arm's length distance is required for a contract to be valid and free of duress in other circumstances. Until we renters have equal access to our landlords' backgrounds, renters are at a disadvantage and prey to landlords with hidden background records.