If you’re thinking of renting out your property, hiring someone, or just have questions about a person’s suitability, one of the things you’ll most likely want to do is run a background check. But, where can you go to find out if the amiable chap in front of you is financially untrustworthy or whether that pleasant lady is eligible to work for your company?
We’ve gathered together some of the best background check services operating in the UK, so you can avoid having to trust your gut when it comes to people you don’t know.
What shows up on a background check?
The most common kind of background check to run is for potential employees. In fact, according to GOV.UK it’s a requirement of employers to ensure that any potential employees are allowed to work in the UK. Should this not be done, then it could lead to a fine of up to £20,000 for companies that can’t provide proof of a check being run.
Another regular request is for criminal records. The government allows DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks that are tiered dependent on the type of employment on offer. So, for those working with children or vulnerable people there are more extensive investigations, while customer facing jobs that are of lower risk might only have a basic check.
The lower-level checks mainly cover unspent convictions, which are previous convictions for crimes that have yet to reach the allotted time when they will be removed from someone’s record.
The reason spent convictions (those which have been removed) are not included is in accordance to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 that prevents discrimination against employing people who have committed crimes in the past but are now deemed to have paid for their transgressions.
The differences between all of the DBS searches are outlined as follows on the Gov.uk site;
- Basic – unspent convictions and conditional cautions
- Standard – unspent and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings
- Enhanced – the same as standard, plus any additional information held by local police that is deemed relevant
- Enhanced with barred lists – the same as Enhanced but also includes details on any roles the person in question is barred from holding
Credit / Tenant checks
The other major type of check is for potential tenants, usually conducted by estate agents, letting agencies, or private landlords. These include credit checks for County Court Judgements (CCJs), bankruptcy, verifying the person is who they claim to be, and in some cases calculating their viability to pay.
If you're thinking of selling or buying a property, here are the best online estate agents.
Best background checks UK
Best for visas and criminal records
If you’re looking to run checks for work eligibility and criminal convictions, then GOV.UK is the place to go. The site takes you through various steps to identify the kind of searches you are able to access, using a multiple-choice style menu. The tiered versions of the DBS checks mentioned above are available, so long as you meet the requirements, as is the general visa certifications that employers need to obtain before offering a job to a successful candidate.
The current cost of DBS checks is £26 for a Standard one, while Enhanced (including barred list) will set you back £44. Checks for eligibility to work in the UK seem to be free, as they are all conducted via an online service that’s supported by documentation provided by the applicant. All details are explained on the site.
Visit GOV.UK for more details about background checks
Best for tenant / credit checks: National Landlords Association
The National Landlords Association provides a variety of services to help new and existing property holders to let their rooms, apartments, or buildings with as little risk as possible. One of these services is background checks on tenants.
The NLA currently offers two different checks: Basic and Full. Basic covers CCJs, bankruptcy, residency, and electoral role, while the Full adds bank account validation, references from previous landlords, and also confirms the financial viability of the candidate and verifies they are employed.
Basic checks cost £12.95 (£8.95 for members) and Full checks costs £29.50 (£24.50 for members).
If you’re in a hurry, then there’s also the option of an Express check which covers the same as the Full but is completed in one day rather than two. These currently cost £33 or £29.50 for members.
Best for private background checks: UK Background Checks
Should you have concerns about someone that has entered your life (be it a potential spouse, individual offering a tempting business opportunity, or anything along those lines), then it may be worth engaging a private investigation company to check that there are no hidden skeletons in the newly arrived closet.
UK Background Checks is one that specialises in this area. Owned by London-based Global Investigations Ltd, the company offers a range of searches that are conducted by real-life investigators rather than being solely reliant on databases, as is the case with many other services.
There are a few limitations of course, due to legal restrictions in this area, so UK Background Checks can’t provide criminal records and there are limits on credit checks unless the person is a debtor to you. What it does offer is confirmation that the person is who they say they are, any companies they own or are connected to, social media and press postings, any wanted lists they may appear on, property ownership, relationships, as well as family history. These can all be augmented with surveillance and photographic evidence if that is your need and you’re willing to pay for the service.
UK Background Checks states that investigations start at around £125 for the basics, with the average cost around £300, and take 15 to 20 days to complete.
Visit UK Background Checks for more details