Managing a rental property comes with a lot of responsibility, one of which is choosing the right tenant. In the past, asking for recommendations and meeting in person were the only ways to decipher whether someone was trustworthy or not. While these are useful tools still to this day, more and more landlords choose tenant screening services to help make the decision.
Like with any market, there are a lot of different options out there. Knowing what you want out of a service and how much you want to pay will help narrow it down, but just in case it doesn’t, here’s out list of the best background check services out there.
The Importance of Tenant Screening
It is entirely up to you to decide whether you want to use available tenant screening services for landlords or not. If you’re new to the business or maybe have been in the game for a long time, knowing a bit about how these services work can help you mitigate risk in the long run.
Determining trustworthiness is a critical factor in the rental business. Finding someone who will fulfill the terms of the contract, such as paying rent on time, isn’t the only consideration. Property damage, criminal activity, and undocumented tenants are all concerns that cause stress and costly legal battles.
Top Tenant Screening Services in 2021
First Advantage is a reliable and well-reviewed service that started in 2003. The company prides itself in providing a personalized service, with tenant reports performed by real people as opposed to automated system checks.
First Advantage relies on a comprehensive library and a multitude of resources in order to establish accurate and robust reports on potential tenants. Most importantly, these tenant screening services come with a guarantee of human verification, mitigating the risk of receiving outdated or inaccurate information.
This service is one of the most reliable options you can currently find on the market and one of the companies that is consistently well-reviewed. This is mainly due to the multitude of resources the company uses in order to screen tenants. These tenant screening services come with the guarantee of human verification, and rely on a comprehensive library that helps put together accurate and robust reports.
First Advantage is an expanding company, now present in 14 countries, and it provides more than 70 million background checks each year.
The reports include the following information: rental and utility debt information, criminal background checks, and credit insights. This company is known as the best tenant background check service for speed and it provides extra educational resources you can find on the website.
- They update their criminal record database daily
- You get access to a library containing landlord-tenant relationship insights
- Human-verified tenant reports
- The multitude of information makes it hard to navigate the website
- Hard to find pricing information
Although E-Renter is not one of the free tenant screening services available, its prices are affordable in comparison to competitors. Its basic plan costs approximately $22, and the services it offers include Social Security Number verifications, Patriot Act research, and OFAC – Office of Foreign Assets Control.
You can get a broad understanding of your tenants even with the reports offered by the basic plan, which also include liens, criminal background checks, evictions, lawsuits, bankruptcies, sex offender status, and court rulings.
The company offers a fair and transparent pricing policy, and from this perspective, it is one of the most appreciated background check services for landlords. The second tier is a bit more expensive, costing approximately $40, and it provides advanced checks that also include Rent Check Advisor reports, name, identity, address validation, and more complex SSN checks. E-Renter also works with FCRA-certified professionals.
- FCRA-certified employees
- Lots of different background checks, even in the basic plan
- Transparent pricing
- You can’t charge the applicant directly
- The landlord service doesn’t offer full credit reports
Avail tenant screening services have established a good reputation among landlords, especially for their comprehensive and accurate criminal background checks. This service has been on the market since 2012, and it offers a large array of options that cater to independent landlords and property managers. This company not only offers screening services, but their platform also allows landlords to advertise their property listing on different real estate websites, keep in touch with tenants, and receive their rent payments.
This is one of the best tenant screening services for landlords, with over 150,000 satisfied customers. This company also offers free screening services and a ready-made tenant screening form. The background check process is carried out by employees, who contact individual previous landlords and collect information through thorough investigation.
Avail’s detailed reports are provided by TransUnion and include the applicants’ FICO credit scores and information on tenants’ financial history. The criminal record information Avail tenant screening offers is accurate and comprehensive, including sex offender registries and most wanted lists. The basic reports cost $30 per applicant, and the full report costs $55.
- Straightforward and easy-to-follow reports
- In-depth criminal background check
- Complex platform that offers multiple services
- Full reports are pricey
- The company is not accredited by the BBB
If you are looking for tenant credit and background check services online, RentPrep is among the first results. This company enjoys positive customer feedback, and champions itself apart from the competition by working with certified FCRA screeners, ensuring that all industry guidelines and legal requirements are met.
RentPrep is a New York company that has an A+ rating with the BBB and has helped more than 35,000 customers find the right tenants. The three main aspects this service focuses on while screening tenants are criminal background, credit scores, and eviction history.
It might be the best tenant screening service when looking for tenant’s that have good financial standing, and the company offers its own credit decision reports put together by FCRA screeners. If you opt for a SmartMove report, your receive a full credit report that includes FICO scores powered by TransUnion.
- FCRA screeners
- Various customer support channels
- Different types of credit reports
- More expensive than other services
- Can’t generate the reports instantly
If you’re looking for the best tenant screening services with a long standing good reputation, Tenant Alert is an excellent option. This company has been on the market since 1988, and it relies on a nationwide database that develops comprehensive tenant reports.
Some of the highlights of this service include SSN fraud reports, previous address checks, employment, and bank account verification, income information, and landlord verification. Not all offer this level of detail for their background checks for renters, setting Tenant Alert apart from the competition.
Tenant Alert uses a huge number of national records to comprise the reports, which include criminal background checks, credit information, evictions, payment history information, bankruptcies, employment information, income information, total account balance, and open and closed accounts.
This company also offers sex offender status reports and terrorist checks, as well as international criminal reports all with FCRA-certified professionals. The basic Tenant Alert plan costs approximately $25 per applicant, making it the best tenant screening for realtors by price alone.
- Unique add-on information
- Discounts for bulk screenings
- Charges applicant for screening
- Not all services are available nationwide
- Some consider it pricey
Turbo Tenant is a unique service that sets itself apart by providing the option to pass the cost of screening along to the potential tenant instead of charging the landlord. It is one of the best background and credit check for tenants, and payments are collected directly after applying for the property all in one simple and fast process.
Turbo Tenant reports are powered by TransUnion, which increases their accuracy and minimizes the risk of outdated information. Reports include a variety of information such as criminal records, credit scores, evictions, payment history, full credit reports, fraud indicators, and civil records. This is currently one of the most popular tenant screening options for realtors.
It uses more than 200 million criminal records and a huge array of eviction reports and public records. There are two pricing options per application: $35 or $45. The second package includes more details such as a full eviction report, warrants of eviction, and missed rent payment reports.
- Tenant pay option
- Comprehensive eviction reports
- Online rent payments
- Difficult to find customer support details
- Pricier than other services
This efficient and easy-to-access online platform could be the best tenant screening service for landlords. It’s ideal for those who want an all-in-one screening and advertising solution as Buildium allows you to not only carry out background checks on your future tenants, but also offers advertising vacancies, handling your tenant billing processes, managing tenant requests, and even bookkeeping services.
By streamlining all property management tasks, Buildium provides an easy solution to choosing tenants and taking care of them once they become your renters. Buildium is the best credit check for landlords service if you are looking for an intuitive tool.
The platform provides the following information: credit reports, evictions, and criminal reports. Choose specific credit requirements to only have preferred types of tenants referred to you based on your selections. Buildium’s basic plan costs only $15 per month and the premium option costs $18.
- All-in-one platform
- Easy to use
- Free trial available
- Better for rental companies, not individuals
- The add-on features are a bit expensive
SmartMove is TransUnion’s tenant screening service and is possibly the best tenant screening service out there. Praised by customers in online reviews for accurate and comprehensive reports, SmartMove eliminates third parties providing a fast and reliable service.
This service is entirely online, and it’s cirminal background check is touted as one of the best on the market. To ensure the most accurate service, SmartMove checks criminal records from 44 states and different national and state databases, including sex offender registries.
Clients can get access to applicant’s FICO scores and other financial information, as well as eviction reports. SmartMove also provides ResidentScore, which is a background check for renters that provides a numerical representation of how reliable your future tenants are. The cost is $25 per screening for the basic plan, the SmartCheck Plus plan costs $38, and the premium plan costs $40.
- Operated by TransUnion
- Reliable and accurate tenant reports
- Different pricing plans
- No credit report in the basic plan
- Limited support options
Things To Consider When Choosing The Best Tenant Screening Service
There are several aspects you should take into account before you purchase a tenant screening service, but price is a main consideration. The pricing policy of each provider varies, as well as the types of reports and services that are included.
Some services have a monthly subscription, while others charge clients for each report they generate. You might also find different free tenant screening services, but most of these include only limited options and usually require creating an account after a certain period of time.
If you know you’ll be using the service frequently, monthly subscriptions can provide the best deal. Many monthly options come with additional services such as rental advertisements and easy rent payments. If you only have a few properties, however, then it might be best to find a tenant screening that allows you to pay per report.
Compliance is extremely important when you run background checks on your prospective tenants, and ensuring the service is fully compliant with state privacy laws is essential to a transparent and professional rental relationship. FCRA compliance (Fair Credit Reporting Act) is the main regulation to look for, which ensures that the service is in accordance with the federal and state laws, as well as the industry guidelines.
Terms and Conditions
The best tenant screening sites will have a T&C page you can easily find and read. It’s important to make sure you understand these terms and conditions, especially if you are about to purchase a subscription plan for a year or several months. You don’t want to find yourself unable to cancel your account if you’re not satisfied with the service.
If you’re choosing a service that doesn’t offer refunds, make sure you read reviews about it or go through a trial period to make sure it’s worth the committment.
Human-Verified Results vs. Computer-Generated Reports
A primary difference between tenant screening services is whether reports are created using human employees, or are computer generated. Personal preference plays a great role in this decision, but also price, accuracy, and comprehensiveness are other considerations that differ depending on this factor.
Human verifications might mean more accurate and up-to-date results while computer-generated reports take less time and can scan multiple databases in a matter of seconds. The best tenant background check will either involve human verification at some step of the process or offer some sort of guarantee for the accuracy of the results that you pay for.
People Also Ask
There are many services that compete for this title, and it’s difficult to name a single company. Depending on the tools that are important to you, each one has something to offer.
For example, RentPrep can be considered one of the best tenant screening companies for bulk screenings, while E-Renter offers the best value. Turbo Tenant is great because it allows tenants to easily pay for the screening process after they apply to rent a property, and First Advantage upholds a solid reputation providing numerous educational resources for landlords and tenants.
There are several different types of background checks that are useful for assessing a tenant.
Credit reports and financial records, criminal record background checks, and eviction reports are all common requests on tenant applications. Some additional services provide late-rent payment registries and sex offender reports.
In order to choose the right screening service for you, knowing your needs and priorities will help. Knowing how much you are willing to spend per report, if you want to charge your tenants for the screening service, how much data you want to collect, and what reviewers say are all ways to pick the company that is right for you.
Landlords run a variety of checks on their tenants depending on their own requirements. It’s not required to run a background check, and some don’t do it. Many wish to check credit reports, however, and access eviction and late-rent registries in order to assess the financial status of their applicant. Landlord criminal background check options are also popular, as landlord’s and companies want to ensure the safety of their properties.
There are multiple strategies that help vet potential tenants during an application process. Asking for recommendations, proof of employment, and trusting your intuition during a face-to-face meeting are useful and time-told strategies. Many choose to take an extra step and use tenant screening services in order to learn about financial history and circumstances, previous rental relationships, and any notable criminal activity.