Conducting thorough, comprehensive tenant background checks is one of the most important things you can do as a real estate investor -- whether you're renting your home on Airbnb or full-time to a long-term renter. Not only does it ensure you choose tenants who can (and will) stay current on rent, but it also helps you avoid bad tenants -- ones who will ruin your property, and your profits right along with it. Want to make sure you're doing all you can to get the best tenants? Here are 11 of the best tenant screening services that can help:
With RentPrep, the premium tenant screening package gets you a full history of evictions and bankruptcies, verification of the renter's Social Security number and address history, a nationwide criminal record and sex offender search, and a full credit report. You can also add on a judgment and lien history if you want to really safeguard your finances.
SmartMove is a program from credit bureau TransUnion. Use it to get a full credit, criminal, and eviction report on a tenant, as well as an income insights report to gauge how accurate their self-reported earnings really are. SmartMove also assigns potential tenants a "ResidentScore" which assesses their level of risk and predicts their chance of eviction.
Experian Screening Services
Experian, another credit bureau, also offers tenant background checks and reporting. The basic package comes with details on public record filings (like evictions, bankruptcies, and tax liens), as well as a credit report, payment history, and details on the tenant's names, addresses, and employers. More detailed reports include fraud summaries, rental decision recommendations, and more.
AppFolio offers two tenant screening options: a credit check and eviction history package or a credit, eviction, and criminal records package. You can also set specific criteria, so if a tenant fits the bill, you'll get an "approved" recommendation and can then use the tool's online leasing feature to streamline the process. AppFolio can also help you list, market, and manage your property, as well as collect rent online. You can even get property insurance through the platform.
TurboTenant is technically free for landlords, offering listing and marketing services, pre-screening questionnaires, rental applications, reference requests, and tenant credit and criminal background checks. The potential renter pays an application fee, completes the forms and application, and the landlord receives the data, as well as the detailed reports.
National Tenant Network
National Tenant Network (NTN) has been in the screening business for more than three decades. It offers eviction and lease violation data, credit reporting, criminal background checks, and full ID verification services. If you need help managing your property, NTN also offers leasing and data management tools.
Cozy helps you list and manage your properties, as well as collect rent. It also has a built-in tenant screening tool that lets you pull a full credit report (paid for by the applicant), as well as an eviction history. It also includes a Social Security number trace, sex offender search, and both national- and county-level criminal records searches. You can even compare tenant profiles side by side to ensure you're choosing the right applicant.
With MyRental, you can select from a variety of tenant screening packages or pick and choose your reports a la carte. Report options include eviction and previous address histories, terrorist alerts, multi-state criminal and sex offender reports, credit reports, and a tenant scoring system. The highest-tier package also assigns applicants a landlord acceptance rate to help you gauge how other property owners have evaluated the renter.
AutoHost is a good option if you're renting your home on Airbnb. Designed for short-term rental management (and guest screening), it can assess and flag risky renters before you confirm their reservations. It also helps validate guest information, like phone numbers, social media, and official IDs, and it looks for instances of online fraud. AutoHost will also run criminal background checks to make sure potential renters never been convicted of rental fraud and that they're not on a no-fly list.
LeaseRunner can handle the listing application, screening, and leasing processes, and it can even collect your rent after you find a tenant. On the screening end, you can use the tool to conduct background and eviction checks, pull a full financial profile (including payroll and banking data), and check public records.
We recently mentioned TurnKey on our list of Airbnb alternatives, but it also offers built-in guest screening, too. If you list your short-term rental property on the platform, you'll get bank-level ID screening and fraud protection technology on your side. TurnKey will even foot the bill for digital locks and decibel monitors on the property.
|Platform||Screening fee||Paid for by applicant or landlord?||For long-term or short-term rentals?|
|Experian Screening Services||$6.95–$14.95||Either||Long-term|
|AppFolio||$1.25 per unit, per month (minimum of $250)||Landlord||Long-term|
|National Tenant Network||Varies by location||Landlord||Long-term|
|AutoHost||$1–$2 per reservation||Landlord||Short-term|
|TurnKey||18%–23% per booking||Landlord||Short-term|
The bottom line
Screening your tenants is important, and fortunately, thanks to all these technologies, it's now easier and more affordable than ever. With most tools, you can even pass the cost off to your renter. If your preferred service does charge a fee, make sure to compare that minimal fee to what a bad tenant could cost you in property damage, lost rent or, even worse, an eviction case.
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