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I Have a Stalker. Will a Landlord Rent to Me Without a Background Check?

Dear Penny: Need Some Money Advice? Ask Penny!
Kristy Gaunt / The Penny Hoarder
Dear Penny,

The house we have been renting for the past eight years is being sold. We must be out on July 1.

My awkward money problem is I have a stalker. Therefore, I MUST stay private.

I can’t have credit or background searches done, because that’s how he’s found me in the past. We are offering two to three months’ rent upfront, a glowing letter from our current landlord, and a letter from my attorney about the stalker and restraining order. But no one is willing to help us out.

Do you have any suggestions? I can’t allow any searches. It’s too risky. It truly is a matter of my life.

-C


I can only imagine the stress you’re feeling right now. Moving is the worst when everything is normal; when you’re afraid for your safety, the stress must certainly compound.

Tenant rights vary widely from state to state, but one thing’s for sure: A landlord or property management company will want to check an applicant’s background in some way. Anyone can come to an open house with a smile and halfway decent handwriting and appear trustworthy; it’s not until landlords run the checks of their choosing that they can be confident prospective tenants will pay the rent on time.

Asking a potential landlord not to do a background or credit check is a major red flag. Even though you’re not at fault in this situation, a history with a stalker is something that will turn off many landlords from even considering you. Landlords want a drama-free property almost as much as you do.

Our lives are more public and easily accessible now than ever before — more than any of us probably wishes. When someone has enough information about you to check up on your affairs beyond what’s easy to Google, there aren’t too many places left to hide.

From your letter, it sounds like your stalker has access to databases that aren’t available to the public. If your stalker can see who recently ran your credit, he might be able to trace you to your new location.

If you can’t leave your geographic area, it might be time to call in reinforcements beyond your restraining order and attorney’s note.

Thirty-six states have address confidentiality programs to protect victims of stalking and domestic violence. The programs provide substitute addresses that can be used for government documents and with public agencies. Programs like these aren’t likely to be helpful if the stalker already knows your address, but they may slow down his search if he doesn’t.

If you think your stalker is finding information about you with your Social Security number, you can ask the Social Security Administration for a new number. You have to provide evidence for why you’re requesting a new number, but the application process is free.

The Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime has resources you may want to review. The National Network to End Domestic Violence has a relocation tip sheet for people dealing with stalking.

In a movie script, I’d tell you to change your name, cut your hair and get the heck out of town. But this is real life. Work with law enforcement and local victim advocate programs, and ask for help from friends, family, your employer and anyone else who can keep an extra eye out on your well-being.

Have an awkward money dilemma? Send it to [email protected]

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