Who Pays for Background Checks?


Background checks are useful for businesses and individuals alike. Although it's customary for commercial businesses to pay for pre-employment background checks, the opposite is true for nonprofit companies. Some landlords pay for background checks on pending tenants, while others require potential renters to pick up the tab. It's also becoming more common for people to purchase their own background checks before upcoming job interviews, as well as to purchase background reports on people they're seriously dating.

Commercial Businesses

  • Most companies view paying for pre-employment background checks as part of the cost of doing business. Pre-employment background checks are also critical for screening applicants for criminal backgrounds, verification of work history, and confirmation of advanced degrees. Employers want to ensure a secure and reliable work environment and want to decrease the likelihood of being sued for negligent hiring. Credit and medical histories are not part of background checks unless they are applicable to the job responsibilities.

Nonprofit Businesses

  • Most nonprofit businesses ask volunteers to pay for their own background checks. One reason is that conducting multiple background checks can get costly as each typically involves searching pay-per-use proprietary database searches. Also, a background search might involve more than database research, such as interviewing references in person, which involves paying the interviewer for their time and expenses. Some supervisors view willingness to pay for a background check as an indicator of the person's commitment and interest.


  • Landlords often require background checks on prospective tenants to investigate criminal backgrounds, any history of not paying past landlords or destroying property, as well as to check character references. Some landlords pay for these background checks themselves, although it's not uncommon for a landlord to request payment as part of the application process. Some landlords view tenants who are willing to pay for their background checks as being more committed to the rental obligation.


  • Sometimes people want to know what information shows up in their own background checks. For example, it's helpful to know ahead of time what potential employers will find out from their own, privately conducted pre-employment background checks so an applicant can proactively address any issues during the job interview. Many background check companies offer individual background checks from $20 to $50, sometimes called job search reports, that include the requester's criminal history, driver history and arrest record.

Other Background Checks

  • There are other types of background checks people and businesses request, or are required to have. For example, people applying for a business license either pay separately for their own background check, or the cost of the background report is part of the license application fee. Businesses pay for an affiliate profile report to verify a prospective business partner's financial viability. Also, families hiring nannies or other live-in help typically pay for a background check on potential employees.


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