Tenant Screening Guidance

Quality tenant screening is designed to protect both the landlord/real estate agent/property manager and the rental applicant. Applicants need to know they are being screened fairly and equally, their sensitive information is safe, their credit and background check is accurate, and that everyone feels respected. You need to trust that the screening company you pick will be the best and provide a trustworthy and reliable product to help you make informed decisions for your rental properties.
  • Bad tenant screening can put your property and business at risk
  • Tenant screening should be safe and reliable for both parties
  • Not all background checks are the same – question the data!

Tenant Screening Guidance

Quality tenant screening is designed to protect both the landlord/real estate agent/property manager and the rental applicant. Applicants need to know they are being screened fairly and equally, their sensitive information is safe, their credit and background check is accurate, and that everyone feels respected. You need to trust that the screening company you pick will be the best and provide a trustworthy and reliable product to help you make informed decisions for your rental properties.

  • Bad tenant screening can put your property and business at risk
  • Tenant screening should be safe and reliable for both parties
  • Not all background checks are the same – question the data!

How Tenant Screening Can Protect Your Assets

While some states/counties are working towards limiting the use of criminal and eviction records, compliant screening practices are still a necessary tool that will alert you towards violent behavior and property damage that could prove a risk to your property.

Screening your tenants for relevant criminal records can safeguard your investments by informing you about which applicants are more likely to be a high-risk for property damage. You can also protect your other tenants, or members of the community by not selecting applicants with recent violent or sexual criminal offenses. Objective knowledge based on factual information is among one of the best ways to avoid discrimination in your decisions when selecting from a pool of applicants, and can protect you should denied applicants feel they were not treated fairly. Renting to safe tenants and using proper, legal screening can help you win, or hopefully avoid lawsuits, not to mention the cashflow you’ll receive by improving the amount of tenants who pay their rent (on time, too).

Tenant screening protects:

  • You and your properties
  • Other tenants and neighbors
  • The local community

How Tenant Screening Can Protect Your Assets

While some states/counties are working towards limiting the use of criminal and eviction records, compliant screening practices are still a necessary tool that will alert you towards violent behavior and property damage that could prove a risk to your property.

Screening your tenants for relevant criminal records can safeguard your investments by informing you about which applicants are more likely to be a high-risk for property damage. You can also protect your other tenants, or members of the community by not selecting applicants with recent violent or sexual criminal offenses. Objective knowledge based on factual information is among one of the best ways to avoid discrimination in your decisions when selecting from a pool of applicants, and can protect you should denied applicants feel they were not treated fairly. Renting to safe tenants and using proper, legal screening can help you win, or hopefully avoid lawsuits, not to mention the cashflow you’ll receive by improving the amount of tenants who pay their rent (on time, too).

Tenant screening protects:

  • You and your properties
  • Other tenants and neighbors
  • The local community

What to Consider When Selecting A Tenant Screening Provider

In order to get the best tenant screening, you need to know how to figure out what separates the good companies from the unreliable. A bit of research can go a long way when it comes to narrowing down your options. Start with a few simple questions to determine whether a provider will be the right fit for your needs.
  • Do you need a credit report, and which bureau do you trust?
  • Does it include a reputable credit score such as VantageScore 3.0 or FICO?
  • Does it include rental payment history?
  • Is a criminal background check included?
  • Does the criminal background check cover the U.S., or is it state specific?
  • Does the report tell you whether they are a registered sex offender, and why?
  • Is a nationwide eviction history part of the report?
  • Does the eviction history cover your state, and does it include both judgments and filings?
  • Does the company have an easy-to-reach support team to answer questions?
  • Does the provider make it easy for applicants to get support with questions about their report?
  • How long does it take to receive the full credit and background check?
  • Who purchases the report, and how much does it cost?

Make sure you are getting the information you need so you can make an informed decision. This includes a reputable credit report (with credit score), criminal background check, eviction history, and sex offender registry search. Be sure to ask whether the criminal database scans everything: nationwide, state, and local jurisdictions. Credit reports should include everything you need to know in order to determine whether an applicant will pay their rent on time, including tradelines, collection accounts, public records, length of credit history, and a credit score. Specific to renters, you should also review whether they have a history of evictions and what reasons they may have been evicted for in the past.

What to Consider When Selecting A Tenant Screening Provider

In order to get the best tenant screening, you need to know how to figure out what separates the good companies from the unreliable. A bit of research can go a long way when it comes to narrowing down your options. Start with a few simple questions to determine whether a provider will be the right fit for your needs.
  • Do you need a credit report, and which bureau do you trust?
  • Does it include a reputable credit score such as VantageScore 3.0 or FICO?
  • Does it include rental payment history?
  • Is a criminal background check included?
  • Does the criminal background check cover the U.S., or is it state specific?
  • Does the report tell you whether they are a registered sex offender, and why?
  • Is a nationwide eviction history part of the report?
  • Does the eviction history cover your state, and does it include both judgments and filings?
  • Does the company have an easy-to-reach support team to answer questions?
  • Does the provider make it easy for applicants to get support with questions about their report?
  • How long does it take to receive the full credit and background check?
  • Who purchases the report, and how much does it cost?

Make sure you are getting the information you need so you can make an informed decision. This includes a reputable credit report (with credit score), criminal background check, eviction history, and sex offender registry search. Be sure to ask whether the criminal database scans everything: nationwide, state, and local jurisdictions. Credit reports should include everything you need to know in order to determine whether an applicant will pay their rent on time, including tradelines, collection accounts, public records, length of credit history, and a credit score. Specific to renters, you should also review whether they have a history of evictions and what reasons they may have been evicted for in the past.

Data Security Rules All

While everything listed is important, one major deciding factor is the data security. It’s vital that the information they provide for you is protected. Poor data security is a serious red flag. This may be the most important thing: while inaccurate tenant screening can sour your reputation and may leave plenty of people unhappy, a data breach can do just as much damage to your reputation and harm many people’s lives.

The tenant screening provider should have up-to-date technology that secures their personal information. If an applicant can’t trust you to keep their identifying information safe, then why would they trust you as a landlord? Show that they can trust you with a few security measures while they are applying. Make sure that the website prefix is https, not just https. This means that it is a secure network. From there, ensure that it has two factor authentication. This will give the extra assurance that even if a password was leaked, any attempt to log in by a stranger would be halted by the extra step, such as a text verification.

Your Security Requirements:

  • Https website to show it is secure
  • 2-factor authentication for accounts
  • Reports shared in the system to avoid tampering

What Warning Signs to Consider

When picking a tenant screening provider, are they being transparent about their accuracy measures? A screening company should be able to clarify for you how their matching algorithm successfully identifies your applicant (with a social security number, address history, date of birth, etc.) and showcase the initiatives they take to minimize inaccuracies. You should also consider whether they check for aliases. Many criminals don’t stick to one name, or the name listed on their birth certificates, and even a slight misspelling by an officer could make the applicant’s records more difficult to find. Ask the screening service how they identify and match aliases on their criminal records to ensure accuracy and complete results.

It’s not uncommon that a rental applicant may complain about their screening report, but if it happens with the majority of renters then it might be a sign to switch providers.

What Warning Signs to Consider

When picking a tenant screening provider, are they being transparent about their accuracy measures? A screening company should be able to clarify for you how their matching algorithm successfully identifies your applicant (with a social security number, address history, date of birth, etc.) and showcase the initiatives they take to minimize inaccuracies. You should also consider whether they check for aliases. Many criminals don’t stick to one name, or the name listed on their birth certificates, and even a slight misspelling by an officer could make the applicant’s records more difficult to find. Ask the screening service how they identify and match aliases on their criminal records to ensure accuracy and complete results.

It’s not uncommon that a rental applicant may complain about their screening report, but if it happens with the majority of renters then it might be a sign to switch providers.

Further Action

Tenant screening has always been a tepid topic, and it’s not getting any easier. Many places have varied degrees of legal protections for tenants that make it a convoluted subject to study. Make sure to ask local lawyers who can help provide guidance specific to your area. This can cover everything from The Fair Housing Act (FHA) to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and other local laws. It’s important to check local legislation as they are prone to change more often than Federal laws and may not make as many waves. That would include new laws that target limiting the use of eviction records like in New York, Oregon, and Minnesota.

Make sure that you fully understand proper tenant screening. Check out our how-to guide on getting a credit check on tenants and their background. After that, see that you’re developing the best questions for your pre-screening interviews.

Make sure you are screening your tenants in a secure way.