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Screening potential tenants is a vital step as a landlord. To protect yourself and your property, you don't want to rent to just anyone—screening can give you an idea of the type of person you'll be renting to.
Table of Contents
- First Advantage
- Corelogic MyRental
What Is a Tenant Screening Service?
Tenant screening is the process of investigating and evaluating a tenant's level of risk for a prospective landlord and is usually presented in the form of a report. This report typically includes either financial background check results, criminal background check information, or both.
Some tenant screening services include a credit report and credit score, while others give their own tenant-risk score. The tenant evaluation process can include:
- Checking references
- Judgments, lawsuits, and liens search
- Eviction history search
- Employment verification
- Rental history verification
- Credit score check
- Credit report check
- Social Security number verification
- Address history verification
- ID verification
- Nationwide, state, or county criminal background check
Most tenant screening companies accomplish this by either conducting a nationwide search for records or by maintaining their own database of records. The problem with either approach is that some courts don't make their records available online, so quick searches or database searches can miss important information.
How to Evaluate a Tenant Screening Service
Here are the top considerations for you to think about when evaluating the effectiveness of a tenant screening service:
The more information you have about a prospective tenant, the better you can prevent costly evictions, missed rent payments, and damage to your property. Often the difference in price between a minimal report and a comprehensive report is small in comparison to the financial risk you're taking in renting to the wrong person.
Many tenant screening reports are available in minutes, which means the service is only scanning available national records and leaving out many sources, such as local courts, that don't make records available online. In addition to that, courts are notorious for errors, which an automated scan of records won't catch, leaving you with a potentially inaccurate report.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows tenants to sue for inaccurate or false information on any consumer reports, which include financial and criminal history reported by tenant screening companies. While FCRA compliance does protect you from legal troubles, many FCRA-compliant companies only search arrest records for 7 years when a 10-year look-back period may be allowed for convictions, depending on the state.
Rating: 4.6/5 (G2)
- FCRA-regulation compliant
- International searches available
- Criminal record matches investigated by field reps
- Final report verified five times
Cisive offers a customizable financial tenant screening service through IntelliCorp, which typically includes reporting on judgments, evictions, and bankruptcies. You may also opt to include more detailed information, such as a credit report, civil records search, or employment verification. IntelliCorp searches for civil and eviction records on the county level in both the upper and lower county courts.
Cisive has a reputation for the highest accuracy in its criminal records reporting, with a reported 99.9994% accuracy rate. Searches for criminal records include states, multiple counties, and even municipal courts, when appropriate, and are also conducted on former last names.
Any record matches are followed up with an investigative audit, which involves verification by a field rep. This investigation is then reverified, with the final criminal record report having been verified as many as five times.
2. First Advantage
Rating: 3.7/5 (G2)
- Mobile identity fraud detection technology with RightID®
- Human review process
- Landlord-tenant relationship library
- Criminal records database with daily updates
First Advantage has a focus on fraud detection, with its RightID® technology designed to ensure that government-issued IDs are legitimate. This FCRA-compliant company also conducts many standard tenant screening services. This includes maintaining a library of eviction-related information, such as court filings, judgments, and lease disputes between landlords and tenants.
The company's criminal background checks are conducted through its own National Criminal File. New records are added daily from all 50 states, including records from sex offender registries from every state, plus Washington, D.C., and Guam.
Rating: N/A (G2)
- Reports generated within an hour
- Rent Check Advisor option available
- Multiple plans available
- No monthly fee
E-Renter offers standard tenant screening services, such as reports on evictions, lawsuits, and liens. It also includes information found on each applicant's credit report, including the FICO score, collections, judgments, and bankruptcies.
E-Renters conducts its criminal background check by scanning court records county- and nationwide based on the applicant's legal name and date of birth, although some states are not available for this service. This screening includes data obtained by searching sex offender registries in all 50 states.
Rating: N/A (G2)
- Software-driven credit and criminal background checks
- Courthouse researchers verify eviction and criminal record matches
- Online applications
Better NOI has online applications with customizable acceptance guidelines. The screening includes Social Security number, employment, and income history verification.
BetterNOI uses software to run credit and criminal background checks, but then adds an extra level of accuracy to its reporting. For any match, whether an eviction, arrest, or conviction, the company works with a team of experts tasked with verifying the information directly with the courts.
Rating: N/A (G2)
- Multiple properties under one account
- Applicant can pay for screening
- Founded by TransUnion
- Income Insights Report alerts when income claims need more investigation
SmartMove was founded by TransUnion in 2008, with a focus on the financial side of tenant screening. It maintains a database of credit histories, including nationwide eviction notices. While the service alerts when income claims need more investigation through its Income Insights Report, it's up to the landlord to do the investigating.
SmartMove's criminal records background check is a search for criminal records in multiple states, including sex offender registries and the FBI's most wanted. This service is restricted in some states and maintains a list of jurisdictions where a criminal records check is available.
Rating: N/A (G2)
- Wide variety of screening options available
- Fast reporting for all but local county criminal records checks
- Detailed reports
- Staff is FCRA-certified
VeriFirst creates a report based on information the landlord requests, including credit history, driver's license records, and evictions. More detailed information is also available, such as employment and education verification, drug testing, and an I-9 records check to verify citizenship.
Although most of these reports are generated almost instantaneously, a complete criminal records check takes 3 days. This is because the staff manually extracts criminal records from local county court databases and verifies national records matches.
Rating: 3.8/5 (G2)
- Industry’s largest rental payment history database
- Credit checks on all three major credit reporting bureaus
- AI-based predictive scoring model
- Uses data from 30 million real lease outcomes
RealPage uses machine learning to create an AI-based predictive scoring model based on data that includes 30 million actual lease outcomes. This screening includes identity verification to detect fraud, which can be done with a mobile app at the point of a tour. Landlords can expect eviction reports, collection actions, and even on-time payment histories.
RealPage provides access to a nationwide criminal database, which includes sex offender registries, and also provides the option for out-of-network criminal searches for more than half of states where online data is limited.
Rating: N/A (G2)
- Two packages available plus add-ons
- Includes sample reports
- Basic package is hand-compiled by FCRA-certified screeners
- Full credit report in the TransUnion package
RentPrep offers basic financial screening that includes Social Security number verification and reports on judgments, bankruptcies, and evictions. It also offers extra services for additional charges, such as a full credit report, income verification, and address history.
RentPrep's criminal background check is accomplished by gathering data from courts nationwide and from sex offender registries. This background check isn't included in RentPrep's basic package but is a part of the TransUnion package or available as an add-on.
Rating: N/A (G2)
- Tenants pay for screening reports and can share them with up to 10 landlords
- Now part of Apartment.com's Rental Manager platform
- Includes a TransUnion ResidentScore
- Sample reports available
Cozy.co has now fully transitioned to be a part of Apartment.com's Rental Manager platform. In addition to basic screening services, such as eviction, bankruptcy, and judgment information, landlords can also receive employment status, rental history, and income-to-rent ratio. Tenants initiate the standard report and can share the report with up to 10 participating landlords through the platform.
The criminal background check is conducted through TransUnion, which searches national databases and county records that are available online. Record matches appear on the report, including the date and criminal charge.
10. Corelogic MyRental
Rating: N/A (G2)
- Generates a SafeRent score
- Compares with the SafeRent scores of other renters in the area
- Basic package and premium package
- Landlords can pay for the basic package without tenant involvement
Corelogic MyRental offers a basic package and premium package. With the basic package, the landlord fills out the online form without any tenant involvement and receives a report that includes address and eviction history.
For the premium package, which includes a credit report and SafeRent score, the tenant must fill out some of the information and either the tenant or landlord can pay. Both packages include multistate criminal records and sex offender registry searches in MyRental's database, which is a collection of data from multiple sources that report incarceration and court filing information.
Thorough and Accurate Tenant Screening With Cisive
Thorough, accurate, and FCRA-compliant screening is important to lower your risk and protect you financially. Not all services are as comprehensive or provide the same level of accuracy.
Cisive offers the most comprehensive and accurate tenant screening reports available because we don't just rely on quick national records searches. We have court runners that go to courthouses all across the nation to research eviction, civil, and criminal records to give you the most accurate report possible.
To find out more about how Cisive can lower your risk as a landlord, contact us today.