In North Carolina, background checks ensure safety, trust, and compliance in various aspects of life. They are used by employers, landlords, volunteer organizations, and individuals to verify the history and credentials of potential employees, tenants, volunteers, and others. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need about background checks in North Carolina, from legal requirements to best practices. Whether you are an employer looking to hire, a landlord screening tenants, or an individual seeking personal assurance, this guide provides valuable insights. We aim to equip you with the knowledge to conduct thorough and legal background checks.

Who Needs Background Checks in North Carolina?


Employers across various industries in North Carolina rely on background checks to make informed hiring decisions. Legal requirements for conducting these checks can vary depending on the industry and position, particularly for jobs involving vulnerable populations or sensitive information. Best practices for employers include obtaining written consent from applicants, ensuring compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and state laws, and using background checks as part of a holistic hiring process. Background checks help employers verify the accuracy of the information applicants provide and assess their suitability for the role. This process helps create a safe and trustworthy workplace.


Landlords use background checks to screen potential tenants and protect their properties and other tenants. Tenant screening laws in North Carolina allow landlords to check an applicant’s rental history, employment status, and criminal background. Conducting these checks helps landlords assess a tenant’s reliability and ability to pay rent on time. Landlords can make informed decisions and avoid potential problems by verifying the information provided in rental applications. Background checks ensure a safe and stable living environment for all tenants.


Volunteer organizations, especially those working with children, the elderly, or other vulnerable populations, often require background checks for their volunteers. These checks help ensure the safety and well-being of those they serve. Depending on the volunteer role, different checks may be required, ranging from basic criminal history checks to more comprehensive background screenings. Organizations must balance thorough screening with respecting the privacy and rights of their volunteers. Conducting background checks on volunteers helps maintain trust and safety within the organization and its programs.

Other Individuals/Situations

Background checks are also useful for various personal reasons. Individuals may check potential roommates or partners to ensure their safety and trustworthiness. Licensing and certification requirements for certain professions may also necessitate background checks. Additionally, individuals may want to verify their background information for accuracy. Personal background checks can provide peace of mind and help individuals make informed decisions in their personal lives. Understanding the available options and legal considerations for personal background checks is important.

Types of Background Checks in North Carolina

Criminal Background Checks

Criminal background checks are among the most common checks conducted in North Carolina. Depending on the requester’s needs, these checks can be performed at the state and federal levels. They involve accessing court records and criminal history information to identify past criminal behavior. This type of check is crucial for employers, landlords, and organizations to ensure the safety and integrity of their environments. Criminal background checks can reveal arrests, convictions, and other legal issues, providing a comprehensive view of an individual’s criminal history.

Employment Background Checks

Employment background checks are essential for verifying an applicant’s work history, education, and professional licenses. These checks help employers confirm the accuracy of the information provided by job candidates. They can also include reference checks to assess the candidate’s past performance and character. Employment background checks ensure that new hires are qualified and trustworthy. They can also help prevent negligent hiring practices and promote a safe workplace environment. By thoroughly vetting potential employees, employers can make more informed hiring decisions.

Credit Reports

Credit reports are used by landlords and employers to assess an individual’s financial responsibility and stability. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the use of credit reports in background checks must comply with specific guidelines. These reports can reveal an individual’s credit history, including debts, bankruptcies, and payment patterns. While not all employers use credit reports, they are common in industries where financial responsibility is critical. For landlords, credit reports can help evaluate a tenant’s ability to pay rent on time. It’s important to obtain consent and ensure transparency when using credit reports in background checks.

Other Types

In addition to criminal, employment, and credit checks, other background checks may be relevant. Driving records are commonly checked for positions that involve driving or operating vehicles. Reference checks involve contacting previous employers or personal references to verify an individual’s character and work history. Social media screening can provide insights into an individual’s public online behavior and character. Each type of background check serves a specific purpose and can provide valuable information for making informed decisions. Understanding the various types of checks available can help tailor the screening process to specific needs.

Federal Laws

  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): This federal law regulates how background checks are conducted and ensures that individuals’ rights are protected. The FCRA requires that employers obtain written consent from applicants before conducting a background check and provide them with a copy of the report if any adverse actions are taken based on the information.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Guidance: The EEOC guides to prevent discrimination in hiring practices. Employers must ensure that background checks do not disproportionately impact specific groups and that they use the information obtained reasonably and non-discriminately.

State Laws

  • “Ban the Box” Law: North Carolina’s “Ban the Box” law restricts employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on the initial job application. This law aims to give individuals a fair chance at employment by allowing them to be judged on their qualifications first.
  • Other NC-Specific Regulations: North Carolina has additional regulations governing background checks, such as limitations on using certain records, including those expunged or sealed. Employers must stay informed about these state-specific laws to ensure compliance.

Rights of Individuals

Individuals have several rights regarding background checks. They can dispute inaccurate information in their reports and request corrections. Additionally, individuals must be notified if information from a background check is used to make an adverse decision, such as denying employment or housing. These rights help ensure fairness and accuracy in the background check process. Understanding these rights is crucial for both individuals and organizations conducting background checks.

How to Obtain Background Checks in North Carolina

DIY Options

Individuals and organizations can conduct background checks independently by accessing public records and online databases. This process may involve searching county court records, using state or federal databases, and verifying information through various online resources. DIY background checks can be cost-effective but may require more time and effort. It’s important to ensure that the information obtained is accurate and up-to-date. DIY options are suitable for those with the knowledge and resources to navigate public records effectively.

Third-Party Providers

Many third-party providers offer comprehensive background check services. These companies specialize in gathering and verifying information, ensuring compliance with legal requirements, and providing detailed reports. Consider reputation, cost, and service offerings when choosing a third-party provider. Working with a reputable provider can save time and ensure that the background checks are thorough and accurate. Third-party providers are often preferred by employers and organizations that need reliable background check services.

Fingerprint-Based Checks

Fingerprint-based background checks are required for certain positions, such as those involving security or working with children. These checks involve submitting fingerprints to the appropriate agency, such as the FBI or state law enforcement, for a thorough background search. The process typically includes capturing fingerprints electronically or through ink cards and submitting them for analysis. Fingerprint-based checks provide high accuracy and are often used in sensitive or high-security roles. Understanding when and how to obtain these checks is important for compliance and safety.

Interpreting Background Check Results

Understanding Common Terminology

When reviewing background check results, it’s important to understand common terminology used in the reports. Dispositions refer to the outcome of a criminal case, such as guilty, not guilty, or dismissed. Convictions indicate a formal declaration of guilt for a criminal offense. Arrests represent instances where an individual was detained for suspected criminal activity. Pending Charges are legal actions still in process and have not yet been resolved. Familiarity with these terms helps in accurately interpreting the results.

What to Look For

When analyzing background check results, look for red flags such as criminal convictions, inconsistent information, or significant financial issues. Consider the context of any negative findings, including offenses’ nature, severity, and recency. It’s also important to verify the accuracy of the information and ensure that it pertains to the correct individual. Red flags should be weighed carefully against the overall profile and the requirements of the position or situation. A balanced approach helps in making fair and informed decisions.

Making Informed Decisions

Using background check results as part of a holistic evaluation process is crucial. Consider all available information, including the individual’s qualifications, experience, and character. Background checks should not be the sole determinant but one component of the decision-making process. Making informed decisions involves balancing the risks and benefits, considering the relevance of the findings, and adhering to legal and ethical guidelines. You can make well-rounded and fair decisions by integrating background check results with other factors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Employers Run Background Checks on All Job Applicants in North Carolina?

Yes, employers in North Carolina can run background checks on all job applicants, but they must follow specific guidelines. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) mandates that employers obtain written consent from applicants before conducting a background check. Employers must also provide a clear reason for the background check and ensure it is relevant to the job. Furthermore, the information obtained must be used fairly and without discrimination. Adhering to these guidelines helps protect both the employer and the applicant.

What Information is Included in a North Carolina Background Check?

A North Carolina background check can include various types of information depending on the purpose of the check. Typically, it includes criminal history covering arrests, convictions, and court records. Employment history and references are also commonly verified to ensure the applicant’s work experience is accurate. Education verification, professional license checks, credit reports, and driving records may also be included. Some checks may also review social media activity to get a comprehensive view of the individual.

How Long Does It Take to Get Background Check Results in NC?

The time required to obtain background check results in North Carolina can vary based on several factors. Generally, basic checks can take a few days, while more comprehensive checks, including fingerprint-based checks, may take a few weeks. The specific turnaround time depends on the type of information being gathered and the sources’ efficiency. For example, manual searches of county court records can take longer than automated database searches. Employers and individuals should plan accordingly and allow sufficient time for the background check process to be completed.

Can I Run a Background Check on Myself in North Carolina?

Yes, individuals in North Carolina have the right to run a background check on themselves. This can be beneficial to verify the accuracy of your records and address any discrepancies before they become an issue. You can use online services offering personal background checks or access public records directly through government databases. Checking your background can provide peace of mind and help you understand what potential employers or landlords might see. It’s a proactive step to ensure your records are accurate and up-to-date.

What are my rights if I find errors in my background check report?

If you discover errors on your background check report, you can dispute them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). You should contact the reporting agency that provided the inaccurate information and file a dispute. The agency is required to investigate the disputed information and correct any errors within 30 days. Additionally, you can receive a free copy of your background check report annually from each reporting agency. Ensuring the accuracy of your background check is crucial, as errors can negatively impact your employment, housing, and other opportunities.

Other Frequently Searched Questions

Other common questions about background checks in North Carolina include how much they cost, the requirements for volunteer positions, and specific state laws like the “Ban the Box” law. The cost of a background check can vary widely depending on the depth and scope of the check, ranging from a few dollars for basic checks to over a hundred dollars for comprehensive reports. Many volunteer organizations require background checks to ensure the safety of their clients, especially when working with vulnerable populations. North Carolina’s “Ban the Box” law restricts employers from asking about criminal history on initial job applications, promoting fair hiring practices.

Additional Resources

For further information and resources on conducting background checks in North Carolina, consider the following:


Conducting thorough and legal background checks is essential for making informed decisions in various aspects of life. This guide has provided an overview of the types of background checks, legal requirements, and best practices in North Carolina. Following these guidelines and utilizing available resources can ensure a safe and trustworthy environment for employment, housing, volunteering, and personal interactions. Remember to balance the information obtained with other relevant factors and make fair and compliant decisions with legal standards. Background checks are a powerful tool for safeguarding trust and security in your community.