Renting an apartment when you’re single is difficult. You have only your own income to work with, but probably don’t want to live in a tiny one-bedroom. There aren’t all that many options available that have sufficient space, are in a reasonable location, and are priced to suit someone with only one source of income. Is it any wonder that so many young people leave home far later than their parents and grandparents did?

Most people probably would not choose to live with a roommate they did not know if they didn’t have to, but it can be a good way to lower your cost of living as a single person. Obviously, moving in with a friend or an acquaintance would be best, but sometimes a stranger is the only option. Inevitably, there are major dangers involved in choosing a roommate, and you need to be certain you won’t run into trouble.

You can find the best background check service to find out more about a person before agreeing to rent with them, but what exactly are you supposed to be looking out for? After all, what might seem good paper may be anything but in real life.

Does a criminal record matter?

An obvious red flag for most people would be if the potential roommate comes with a criminal record and would be disqualified on that basis alone. The reasons are self-evident. This stranger may have the sort of lifestyle or personality that makes them decidedly unsafe to live with. They may even just be seriously irresponsible, which is a major problem in and of itself. However, before rejecting anyone with a criminal record out of hand, you should definitely take context into account.

Many people have criminal records from different periods in their lives, during which they had few other choices, it’s always wise to take an online CRB check yourself to know what to expect. At the time they committed the crime, they might have been young and inexperienced, or in a very difficult financial situation. Check if they have a criminal record and ask them questions to hear their side of the story. After all, a simple case of shoplifting during those rebellious teenage years can lead to the creation of a criminal record that lives with them for the rest of their lives but doesn’t at all reflect who the person is now.

When a potential roommate has a record of violent crimes or sexual offenses, though, you should steer clear. It’s that simple. They may be reformed, and there could well be a lot more to the story. But this is someone you’re going to be living with and leaving yourself vulnerable to so it makes perfect sense to be extra cautious in such a case. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is great when you have certain security barriers between you and them, but if it poses a clear and present threat to your safety, it’s hardly unfair to judge someone more harshly.

Bad credit or no credit

A person’s credit record is also going to be very important when making your decision. Their credit record shows how they have previously handled debt. It shows if they failed to pay rent or defaulted on car payments and so on. When you’re renting with someone, you want to know for sure that they will not leave you with the entire burden which you can’t afford.

Again, context is important, and there’s a big difference between someone who had problems years ago and someone who has recently been blacklisted. There is always more to the story, so be sure to ask them about it.

The same is true for people who have no credit history. This isn’t normally a red flag in and of itself but what it suggests certainly is. It could be the case of someone who has spent their life living “off the grid,” so they may not be trustworthy when it comes to pulling their weight. It could also mean that they have not yet moved out of their parents’ homes and haven’t had to pay for their own basic needs. This could mean it’s risky to rent with them but not necessarily. They may be entirely irresponsible layabouts with no job, no prospects, and no sense of personal responsibility. If, however, they have just graduated and have started a job with a decent salary, it becomes much easier to trust that they will come through for you. Freshly graduated twenty-somethings trying to make their way in the world are often far better placed to meet their monthly obligations than most of your other options.

Background checks are useful and should definitely be used when finding a roommate. You’re going to be sharing your living space with them, after all. However, remember that context is key and always use your judgment and common sense before committing to anything. Remember, you can always back out of any roommate agreement, but it could also be quite complicated and is often less than pleasant, so do your homework first, and explore all your options!