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The following are some frequently asked questions about background checks.  The contents of these questions and answers are not intended to negate any standard operating procedures or directives.

Background Checks FAQs

Do you need a background check for commercial tenants? If so, on everyone who works there? Only those on the lease?
The background check requirement mandated by Chapter 29 is only applicable to residential rental properties. A rental unit, as defined in Chapter 29, is a structure containing one more dwelling units, rooming units, or sleeping units. This is does not apply to commercial properties.
What is the website for National Sex Offender Registry/Iowa Courts Online?
The websites to conduct a background check on your own (Iowa Courts Online and the Sex Offender Registries) include www.iowacourts.state.ia.uswww.iowasexoffender.com, and www.nsopw.gov.  The City of Cedar Rapids has partnered with Fidelis Screening Solutions to offer a low-cost, comprehensive background check report for Landlord Business Permit Holders.
How is the background check requirement enforced?
A landlord business permit holder must be able to provide proof of a background check under Chapter 29. While the City will not continually audit your compliance, in the event of contact with a member of the SAFE-CR team for nuisance activity, you may be asked to provide proof of your compliance. Failure to provide proof of a mandatory background check may result in the revocation, suspension, denial, or denied renewal of your Rental Unit Registration or Landlord Business Permit under Chapter 29.36.
How do you do a background check before they sign a lease?
Obtaining the background checks may be part of your tenant screening process.
How do you do a background check for a prospect with foreign passport?
Because Fidelis Screening Solutions searches by name, as well as social security number, and current address, a background check can be run without a social security number. In only this circumstance landlords should enter 000-00-0000 in the Social Security Number field when ordering.
If background check was done prior to renting and came back negative, how can property owner be held responsible for activity beyond the control of the landlord?
The background check mandate is intended to provide property owners more information about the tenants to whom they choose to rent. The City makes no recommendations to property owners as to the selection of a tenant.
How far back do background checks have to go?
There is no requirement as to how far back one must search. Background checks requested through Fidelis Screening Solutions are FCRA compliant and provide only information that a landlord can legally use to make decisions regarding tenancy. Most online records such as Iowa Courts Online do not remove records once their time has expired. This leaves landlords liable for misusing expired information in making their application decisions.
What is the start date that background checks need to be on file?
Background checks should be on file for all persons 18 years of age or older who newly occupy a unit after July 1, 2013.
Are tenants grandfathered into the background checks?
The background check mandate is not required for those persons who already occupy a given rental unit prior to July 1, 2013.
Do we need waivers for background checks?
When submitting a request for a background check through Fidelis, you are agreeing that you are in compliance of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA does require that you obtain consent from the tenant to do a background check; however, you are not required to provide that consent form for the basic check. You do need to provide consent from the tenant for more comprehensive services like credit checks and reference checks.
 
How recent is info provided by Fidelis? Is it on open cases, only resolved?
Fidelis pulls their information from a variety of databases nationwide. Their information is as up to date as the database provides. The information provided will only show arrests and not open investigations. Depending on how the individual agency’s database compiles the information, this may show arrests that have not yet been adjudicated.
How do we handle tenants that move in after a tenant has been checked?
Background checks are required to be performed all on persons 18 years of age or older who occupy a unit whether or not the person has signed a lease.
Do the Fidelis background reports include evictions/money judgments from out of state?
Yes, for an additional fee of $9.95, a Landlord Business Permit Holder can request a nationwide eviction, bankruptcy, judgment and lien search.
How does one check out someone who doesn't speak English or has foreign references? Or lives in a hotel?
Because Fidelis Screening Solutions searches by name, as well as social security number, a background check can be run without a social security number. Landlords should enter 000-00-0000 in the Social Security Number field when ordering. In the event that your prospective tenant does not have a current permanent address, the landlord can use the tenant's most recent permanent address. The way their database works, they can see an entire address history for the person, so all they need the address for is to confirm the identity. Fidelis is able to run an applicant with no address as long as they have a valid SSN and vice versa.
If on sexual offender list, are you allowed to rent to these people?
The City makes no recommendation as to who you should or should not rent to. The intent of the background check is simply to make you aware of whom you are renting to.
If rental property is in Section 8/leased housing and they have done their background checks, do I still have to do additional checks on prospective tenants?
Yes, in order to be in compliance with Chapter 29, the Landlord Business Permit Holder must conduct a background check on all tenants 18 years of age or older.
What is proof you did a background check if you did one on your own?
You must be able to show that you completed a background check – a handwritten or printed copy of your searches of Iowa Courts Online and the Iowa/National Sex Offender Registries would be sufficient.
How would anyone know the decision to decline application was based on credit score/report?
When an adverse action is taken that is based solely or partly on information in a consumer report, the FCRA requires you to provide a notice of adverse action to the consumer.
Without requiring the landlord permit number for background checks, what stops others from using the service?
The information provided by RentPrep is public record. Anyone may request a background check on any person; however, the City has subsidized the price of the background checks for Landlord Business Permit Holders and only those with a permit are given that rate.
 
When you create an account on RentPrep, you are agreeing that you are using the website for tenant screening only and that you are a Landlord Business Permit Holder (or authorized property manager for the holder). When you request a report from RentPrep, your name is cross-referenced with a list of current Landlord Business Permit Holders. In the event that someone who does not have a Landlord Business Permit requests a background check, their check will be rejected from the City of Cedar Rapids until they can show proof that they hold a permit. Otherwise, they may resubmit their background check request for the “full price” charged by RentPrep which does limit the information that they receive (i.e. they will not see Iowa warrants or local arrests pending disposition).
What alternatives are available for landlord who doesn't have access to website/doesn't understand technology?
Chapter 29 simply requires that a background check consisting of a report from Iowa Courts Online and the Iowa/National Sex Offender Registry. The Cedar Rapids Public Library does have computers available for use by the public, free of charge, for those without access to the internet.
RentPrep just shows pass/fail of credit score, what is the recommended credit score? Where do you go to get credit info?
The City of Cedar Rapids does not require that a credit check be performed on occupants of a rental unit, nor does the City make any recommendations as to a “good” or “passing” credit score.

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