Background Checks and Adequate Income Sources: Ensuring Fair Rental Housing in Hawaii

 Duke Kimhan

In recent years, the demand for rental housing in Hawaii has surged, making it crucial for landlords and property managers to screen potential tenants effectively. Background checks and adequate income sources are essential components of the tenant screening process, helping to ensure that rental properties remain safe and financially secure. In this article, Duke Kimhan of Hi Pacific Property Management helps us explore the importance of background checks, the significance of adequate income sources, and the best practices for implementing these measures in rental housing in Hawaii.

I. The Importance of Background Checks

Background checks are vital to safeguarding rental properties and maintaining a positive living environment for all tenants. By conducting thorough background checks, landlords can:

  1. Mitigate potential risks: Background checks help to identify tenants with a history of criminal activity, drug use, or violent behavior, reducing the likelihood of future incidents at the rental property.
  2. Ensure timely rent payments: Tenants with a history of eviction or financial delinquency may pose a higher risk for non-payment of rent. Background checks can reveal such tendencies, allowing landlords to make informed decisions.
  3. Maintain property condition: Tenants with a history of property damage or poor maintenance habits may compromise the condition of the rental property. Background checks can help identify such individuals and protect the landlord's investment.

II. Adequate Income Sources

"Hawaii has some of the nation's highest rents per capita, contrasting with some of the nation's lowest income levels for occupations like city workers and teachers," says Duke. This disparity makes it all the more critical to verify income and tenure sources, along with a paycheck stub and the last two landlords. These measures ensure the success of long-term tenants and help protect the condition of the homes after the tenants leave.

In addition to background checks, verifying adequate income sources is crucial to ensure tenants meet their financial obligations. Landlords should consider the following factors:

  1. Income-to-rent ratio: It is a standard practice to require a tenant's monthly income to be at least three times the monthly rent. This ratio helps ensure the tenant can comfortably afford the rent and other living expenses.
  2. Stability of income: Landlords should look for tenants with stable and reliable sources of income. This may include full-time employment, self-employment, or government assistance programs. Verification can be done by requesting pay stubs, tax returns, or bank statements.
  3. Long-term affordability: Landlords should also consider the tenant's ability to afford the rental property in the long term. Factors such as job security and the local economic climate should be considered.

III. Best Practices for Implementing Background Checks and Verifying Income Sources

To ensure a fair and transparent tenant screening process, landlords and property managers should follow these best practices:

  1. Develop a consistent screening policy: Landlords should establish a clear and consistent policy for tenant screening, including specific background checks and income verification criteria. This policy should be applied uniformly to all applicants to avoid discrimination.
  2. Obtain written consent: Landlords must obtain the applicant's written consent before conducting a background check. Failure to do so may result in legal consequences.
  3. Use reputable screening services: Landlords should use reputable screening services that adhere to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other applicable laws. This ensures the background check process is accurate and compliant with legal requirements.
  4. Protect the applicant's privacy: Personal information obtained during the screening process should be handled securely and confidentially to protect the applicant's privacy. Landlords must also inform applicants of adverse decisions based on background checks or income verification.


Background checks and adequate income sources are essential aspects of Hawaii's tenant screening process for rental housing. Landlords and property managers can implement these measures effectively to ensure their rental properties.