4 Best Tenant Screening Services in 2020

In-depth reviews

Experienced managers are well familiar with the difference between finding a tenant and finding a good tenant. The first one can cause you lots of trouble. Missed payments, disrupting the neighborhood, illegal activities, and damage to your property are just some of the issues you might have to deal with if you hand the keys over to an unreliable person. It might even end in the costly and emotionally draining process of eviction.

To avoid this, most property managers and landlords seek help from the best tenant screening services before putting pen to paper.

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Top 4 Tenant Screening Services for 2020

1. RentPrep

RentPrep offers the best credit check for landlords and property managers looking for various tenant screening services that they can combine based on their needs and budget. This is one of the rare providers that offers background checks performed by certificated FCRA screeners. This option is beneficial because it decreases the likelihood of mistakes that can arise if you use only automated checks. On top of that, RentPrep’s tenant credit check doesn’t require a hard credit pull, which your potential tenants will definitely appreciate. Full Review

  • Manual and automated background checks
  • Option to combine different services and products
  • Bulk background checks

RentPrep offers the best credit check for landlords and property managers looking for various tenant screening services that they can combine based on their needs and budget. This is one of the rare providers that offers background checks performed by certificated FCRA screeners. This option is beneficial because it decreases the likelihood of mistakes that can arise if you use only automated checks. On top of that, RentPrep’s tenant credit check doesn’t require a hard credit pull, which your potential tenants will definitely appreciate. Full Review

2. SmartMove by TransUnion

Provided by TransUnion, SmartMove allows landlords and property managers to conduct a fast and accurate tenant background search. The company’s main selling point is its ResidentScore service, which measures the performance of your potential residents. Add to this the company’s leasing recommendation report and credit score report, and you’ll be able to easily decide whether a potential tenant is the right choice for you or not. Full Review

  • ResidentScore
  • Deep criminal record check
  • Income checking service

Provided by TransUnion, SmartMove allows landlords and property managers to conduct a fast and accurate tenant background search. The company’s main selling point is its ResidentScore service, which measures the performance of your potential residents. Add to this the company’s leasing recommendation report and credit score report, and you’ll be able to easily decide whether a potential tenant is the right choice for you or not. Full Review

3. Avail

Avail is the next company that conducts tenant background screening on our list. It offers free basic tenant screening, but with the paid version you’ll also get a full report on your tenant’s past. The screening process requires minimal effort from property managers and landlords. After submitting the name and email address of your prospective tenant, you just need to wait for a report. In addition to screening, the company allows you to use software for maintenance management, collecting rent, and advertising units. Full Review

  • Ability to charge applicants directly
  • Comprehensive criminal and sex offenders search
  • Free tools for property management

Avail is the next company that conducts tenant background screening on our list. It offers free basic tenant screening, but with the paid version you’ll also get a full report on your tenant’s past. The screening process requires minimal effort from property managers and landlords. After submitting the name and email address of your prospective tenant, you just need to wait for a report. In addition to screening, the company allows you to use software for maintenance management, collecting rent, and advertising units. Full Review

4. TurboTenant

TurboTenant offers background check services for landlords and managers who are looking for one software solution for screening tenants, advertising listings, and collecting payments. As we explain in our TurboTenant review, these services are free for managers and landlords, meaning that applicants pay for screening reports. In addition to advertising and screening services, TurboTenant reviews each applicant’s credit score and advises you whether you should deny or accept the applicant. Full Review

  • Free tenant screening for landlords
  • FCRA-compliant
  • Comprehensive criminal and eviction reports

TurboTenant offers background check services for landlords and managers who are looking for one software solution for screening tenants, advertising listings, and collecting payments. As we explain in our TurboTenant review, these services are free for managers and landlords, meaning that applicants pay for screening reports. In addition to advertising and screening services, TurboTenant reviews each applicant’s credit score and advises you whether you should deny or accept the applicant. Full Review

Best Background Check Site – Our Verdict for 2020

RentPrep Perfect option for landlords and property managers who want to choose from a range of services and combine the ones they need. Offers in-house manual tenant screening, conducted by certified FCRA scanners.
SmartMove Quick and secure solution, since the service is provided directly by TransUnion. Besides a detailed credit report, you can ask for a ResidentScore report, which rates the applicant’s residence performance.
Avail Decent but expensive rental screening service. Its criminal history search options are versatile. The company checks criminal databases, most wanted lists, the sex offenders register, and terrorist watchlists.
TurboTenant Property managers and landlords prefer this company because they can use all its tools for free. Applicants must pay for tenant screening, while other features – like rent collection and advertising units – are completely free.

Detailed Reviews

RentPrep
RentPrep

BEST FOR

landlords and property managers with lots of units

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  • FCRA compliance: Yes
  • Credit report: With $38 plan
  • Bulk tenant screening: 50 applicants or more
  • Criminal background check: With $38 plan
  • Support options: Live chat, phone, email, knowledge base

Overview

RentPrep is one of the best background check sites used by property managers and landlords. This New York-based company has already served more than 36,000 clients, helping them make the right decision when choosing residents. Although the company is not accredited by the BBB, it holds an A+ rating.

Features

When picking the right person to be your renter, there are three things you need to check: credit score, criminal background, and eviction history. At RentPrep, you can rest assured that you will quickly complete these checks and get accurate information about your candidates.

Credit checks are extremely important to every landlord. They are a good sign whether a future tenant is going to pay their rent on time or not. When you perform a credit check for tenants at RentPrep, bear in mind that you can choose between two types of reports.

The first option is a Credit Decision Report, which is the company’s in-house model performed by certificated FCRA screeners. You need to set the criteria – a minimal FICO score that the candidate should have in order to fulfil your requirements. The report you’ll get shows only whether the candidate has passed or not.

The second option is RentPrep’s SmartMove report, powered by TransUnion. This is a full credit report, also known as a resident report. It includes the applicant’s precise FICO number, as well as other relevant details like credit card balances and outstanding debts. You can add a check of criminal records and evictions to this report.

RentPrep tenant’s screening service also includes criminal background checks. Thanks to its criminal records base that consists of more than 200 million files, RentPrep can help you find this sort of information quickly.

Finally, eviction and residence history is also an important part of the tenant screening process. Besides basic information on the applicant’s eviction history, the company digs up details on the incomplete evictions. This happens when a resident pays rent after they’ve received a request to leave.

Pricing

RentPrep offers two pricing plans. The SmartMove Full Credit Check includes a full credit report, resident score, Social Security number verification, criminal and sex offender search, address history, eviction check, and open bankruptcies. This tenant verification service costs $38, but you can also purchase additional services, including income verification.

The second option is to purchase a RentPrep Background check package that costs $18.95. It includes Social Security number verification, address history, eviction history, bankruptcies, judgments, and liens. Additional services like the Credit Decision Report and criminal background check are available with this plan.

We like the structure of RentPrep’s pricing models because they offer more freedom to property managers and landlords. In practice, you choose tenant verification services based on the type or credit check report you want. As we’ve mentioned, RentPrep reports are manually performed by FCRA screeners, so they don’t require the tenant’s involvement at all. For this reason, you’ll receive them much sooner. SmartMove reports don’t require a hard credit pull, meaning that it won’t affect the applicant’s FICO. Moreover, you can decide who will pay for the report – you or your tenant.

Additionally, you can purchase following the features based on your needs:

Judgment and Liens $4.95
Income Verification $10.00
Nationwide Criminal & Sex Offender Search $4.00
Credit Decision Report $9.95

Final Thoughts

RentPrep offers the best tenant screening for landlords and property managers who are looking for flexible pricing plans and various add-ons that they can combine. For example, RentPrep’s SmartMove report provides relevant resident details, but it comes without a history of judgments and liens, which you can purchase for additional fees. Moreover, the company enables bulk screening services for clients with 50 units or more.

Pros Cons
FCRA-certificated agents RentPrep’s SmartMore report doesn’t include a criminal background check in the following states: WY, DE, SD, MA, NC, HI, KY, UT, Washington D.C., or CO
One-hour turnaround time to get RentPrep report Additional costs for income verification service
No sign-in fees Credit check comes without a FICO score
  • FCRA compliance: Yes
  • Credit Report: With high-tier pricing plans
  • Bulk tenant screening: No
  • Criminal background check: Yes
  • Support options: Online form, FAQ section

Overview

SmartMove is a tenant screening service powered by TransUnion, one of the three most prominent consumer reporting agencies in the US. Millions of landlords and tenants who have used its services praise SmartMove for its fast and accurate reports. Based on numerous SmartMove reviews, the main benefit of using this service is that it is operated by TransUnion, meaning that there is no middleman between you and the consumer agency.

Features

Much like other similar services on our list, SmartMove offers various products that help landlords learn more about their potential residents. It prides itself on providing fast reports that you can access from any device you want. Since the entire process happens online, you can order landlord tenant screening at any time you want.

SmartMove is the perfect choice if you want to check the criminal background of your applicants. The company conducts 44 state criminal background checks and reviews relevant national and state databases. Moreover, the company scans the national sex offender registry.

SmartMove tenant screening also includes income insights, eviction reports, and tenant verification. Of course, the company provides credit reports, too. This comes in the form of a full report that shows the candidate’s FICO, as well as a range of other important information that can help you decide if this is the right candidate for you. The company uses TransUnion tenant screening, meaning that your applicant’s private information (like their Social Security number) is completely protected and not available to anyone else.

TransUnion has also developed a unique product for online tenant screening called ResidentScore. At most companies, you’ll get the applicant’s credit score, which shows the outcome of a loan. This is valuable information, but for lenders, not rental managers. ResidentScore is much more useful; it’s a numerical representation of each applicant’s reliability, ranging between 350 and 850.

SmartMove’s leasing recommendation is the next brilliant service that you won’t find at any other company. After creating a background report on the applicant and checking it against your application criteria, SmartMove reviews each candidate’s qualifications to see if they fit your needs. This recommendation will help you find tenants faster and make the right decision.

Pricing

SmartMove’s background check for tenants is available in three packages, which vary according to how comprehensive and detailed the checking is. The entry-level tenant screening bundle – SmartCheck Basic – costs $25 per screening. It includes resident score and national criminal background report, but it lacks a detailed credit score report. To get this important report and also an eviction report, you should purchase SmartCheck Plus, which costs $38 per screening.

Finally, the most comprehensive option is SmartCheck Premium, which costs $40. The package includes all services that the company provides: resident and credit report, criminal history report, evictions, and income screening.

One of the reasons why many managers and landlords choose SmartMove is because they can pass all costs on to applicants.

Final Thoughts

SmartMove offers a great range of tenant background check services. As we’ve shown in our SmartMove review, the company also conducts criminal background checks. However, this service is not suitable for those who want to check criminal reports from the following states: Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Pros Cons
Accurate and fast tenant check Basic plan doesn’t include credit report
Detailed reports on residents’ performance No phone support
Various pricing plans available Income screening available only with the most expensive pricing plan
Avail
Avail

BEST FOR

criminal background checks

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  • FCRA compliance: Yes
  • Credit Report: For $30
  • Bulk tenant screening: No
  • Criminal background check: For $55
  • Support options: live chat, online form, phone, landlords guides and articles

Overview

Next up on our list of tenant screening services for landlords is Avail. Founded in 2012, this company specializes in providing a range of quality products to property managers and DIY landlords. Besides the tenant screening service, you can also use the company’s property management software to advertise your listing on the best real estate sites, communicate with tenants, and collect rent payments. More than 150,000 landlords use the company’s service, with many in particular applauding the company’s special offer of a completely free service for an unlimited number of units.

Features

Avail is designed for property managers and landlords alike to provide them with easy and fast property management. For most, tenant screening is the hardest part of the job, which is why they use Avail’s tenant credit and background check to help them make the right choice.

Avail is one of the rare companies that offers a free screening service. After creating an account, you can send the name and the email address of the applicant you want to check. The company has pre-made tenant screening applications that your applicants can complete quickly. They include information about residence history and employment, but you can also add questions to ask for information you consider important. For some landlords, it’s crucial to know whether or not their prospective tenant is a smoker. Others, for example, don’t allow pets. Asking these questions at the beginning of the leasing process saves lots of time.

Avail starts its search immediately. The company contacts previous landlords to get information on your applicants and find out whether they’ve been good tenants in the past.

Avail is also equipped to provide in-depth tenant screening services. A detailed credit report with visualization is provided by leading consumer reporting agency TransUnion. This report consists of the applicant’s FICO score and other information that shows you the financial health of the candidate. If possible, Avail will also supply you with previous employer information.

There’s also a criminal background search available. Besides state reports and sex offender registries, the company also checks the most wanted lists. Furthermore, Avail will see if your applicant’s name is on the OFAC terrorist watchlist.

Avail’s tenant screening report also includes eviction search. Although this feature is just the cherry on top of the cake, it will give you a clearer picture of your applicant and let you know what you can expect.

Pricing

As we’ve already mentioned, Avail conducts completely free tenant screening background checks. However, in most cases, the basic screening service is not enough to decide if an applicant is going to be a good tenant. Even if you don’t need full reports on the applicant’s past, you should at least check their credit score report. At Avail, this service costs $30 per applicant. Full reports, however, are more expensive. The identical report costs $40 at SmartMove, while Avail charges $50 per applicant.

Of course, if you can pass this cost to your applicant, you don’t need to worry about it. Avail allows you to choose who is going to pay for the service – you or your tenant.

Final Thoughts

Avail’s free landlord screening services can help you during the leasing process, but you’ll need to opt for a paid plan if you want to know what lies beneath the surface. The downside is that once you do choose a paid option, Avail is one of the less affordable providers on the market.

Pros Cons
Readable and well-organized reports Expensive service
Step-by-step tenant authorization Cannot purchase service a la carte
Checks the OFAC watchlist Not BBB-accredited
TurboTenant
TurboTenant

BEST FOR

managers looking for free tools and features

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  • FCRA compliance: Yes
  • Credit Report: Yes
  • Bulk tenant screening: No
  • Criminal background check: Yes
  • Support options: chat, phone, email, help center

Overview

Launched in 2015, TurboTenant is one of the most popular tenant screening platforms for property managers and landlords alike. Based on tenant background check reviews, clients choose this provider because it enables them to completely pass on the costs of application checks to renters. The best tenant screening service takes care of the money transaction, so you don’t need to worry about payments at all. If an applicant pays you directly, you can forward the money easily to TurboTenant and complete the screening process within a minute.

Features

TurboTenant offers various services that can help you complete tenant screening effortlessly. The whole process starts on the company’s site – as a property manager, you can send online rental applications for free. This document contains basic information, like the applicant’s name and address. Moreover, it shows the applicant’s credit score, criminal records, and history of evictions.

Powered by TransUnion rental screening, TurboTenant reports are accurate and trustworthy. Moreover, each best tenant background check is provided by an accredited consumer agency like TransUnion, and it ensures the privacy of the consumer’s personal information. As a landlord, you can use this information only for the purposes of tenant screening and nothing else.

TurboTenant has two packages that include numerous services for enabling detailed background checks, including a full credit report, payment history checks, fraud indicators, and civil and criminal records. We were especially satisfied with TurboTenant’s criminal records check. The company searches 200 million criminal records. If the applicant has criminal or arrest records, be sure that you’ll find out about them.

Thanks to the fact that the company has access to a huge base of eviction records, you can also find out about your prospective tenants’ past behavior with landlords. Tenant background checks include past evictions with information about why they happened.

Tenant screening is just the first step in the leasing process. Once the report is complete, the company can conduct the credit screening recommendation service. Based on the credit score, the company gives recommendations like deny, accept, or conditional acceptance.

To help you narrow down your list and finally choose the ideal renter, TurboTenant supports you with useful tips. For instance, the company provides advice on how to use social media networks to perform additional checks on your potential tenants.

One of the most important things that each best tenant screening website should remind you is to follow the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA of 1968 protects applicants and tenants, ensuring them fair terms during the selection process. The act prohibits landlords from setting different criteria for different applicants. Regardless of their race, ethnicity, or marital status, every applicant must get fair consideration.

Pricing

Like some other companies on our list, TurboTenant allows you to pass on the costs of the screening to your applicants. There are two pricing models. The first is TurboReport, which includes the following services: full credit reports, payment history, fraud indicators, credit screening recommendation, civil and criminal background check, collection history, and inquiries. The price for this tenant screening background check is $35 per applicant.

The second option is TurboReport Pro, which costs $45 per applicant. The package includes all of the previous features as well as some additional services, like a full eviction report, failure to pay rent files, writs, and warrants of eviction.

Final Thoughts

TurboTenant is ideal for property managers and landlords who want in-depth services without having to pay out of their own pocket. TurboTenant is not the only tenant screening company that enables applicants to pay for the screening process, but it’s one of the rare companies that offers other services for free, including advertising listings and collecting payments. For many property managers, this is the most cost-effective solution on the market.

Pros Cons
All services are free for landlords Customer support is hard to find
Online rent payments Some expensive services
Detailed eviction reports Eviction check not included in the low-tier pricing plan

Rental Background Check – Why Do You Need a Dedicated Service?

Let’s be honest – no one likes spending hours and hours doing boring admin. As a landlord, you already have lots of other things to do: create and advertise listings, find housekeepers, manage property maintenance, and take care of finances. Collecting applicants’ documentation manually is not only time-consuming, but there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to get all the information that you need.

At some point in that process, you’ll need support from companies or agents who can quickly complete the background check on a tenant. For instance, even if you decide to go it alone, you’ll need to use companies’ services to get a credit score report. According to the FCRA, only certified companies can provide you with credit reports. This is mandatory, otherwise, you might pay serious penalties.

If your question is how to do a background check on a tenant without using a company’s services, the answer is simple: It’s almost impossible. Tenant screening reports provided by background check companies are the most accurate you can get. Moreover, this is a much faster way to perform tenant background and credit checks.

Our Criteria for Evaluating Best Tenant Screening Sites

It’s no secret that almost every landlord and real estate agent uses services and tools that enable fast and accurate background checks on prospective tenants. While some of them are looking for an all-in-one software solution with the options of listing ads and collecting rent payments for free, others focus on getting detailed reports so they can choose good tenants.

Regardless of the specific features you’re looking for, tenant screening is the most important part of the leasing process, and it must be conducted correctly and in accordance with the law. With this in mind, we set strict rules and followed them while evaluating the numerous providers on our list.

Credit Check

The best rental background check must include a check of each candidate’s credit score. A credit score or FICO is a numerical representation of every consumer’s financial situation. With a detailed credit check, you can also get insights into the applicant’s financial history. You can see each applicant’s bank and credit accounts and check whether they’ve made late payments, taken out loans, or incurred debts. Add a report on employment history and you get a complete picture of the applicant’s finances.

This is the first parameter that shows whether an applicant could be a good tenant. For this reason, it is crucial to make sure that the company you’re paying will provide you with a credit check service. Check this thoroughly, because some companies offer only credit scores, while others provide you with a tenant credit report. Reviews of the best tenant screening services on Reddit show that clients are not always sure about the difference between a credit score and a credit report.

If you order a credit score check, some companies might give you only the number that represents the applicant’s financial health. In some cases, you won’t get the number, but instead you’ll see whether the candidate passed or failed the score criteria you set.

A credit report is a more detailed document that includes the applicant’s credit score number, but also detailed insights into their finances.

You should also know the difference between soft and hard credit inquiries. While the first one doesn’t affect the applicant’s credit score, a hard inquiry will dock some points from their FICO score, although this might just be temporary. Almost every best background check service performs soft credit inquiries.

Legally, only consumer reporting agencies can provide you with someone’s credit score. There are three prominent credit reporting agencies across the US: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. If a company can’t prove that it has requested a credit score from some of these companies, it’s probably a scam and you should look elsewhere.

FCRA Compliance

The next thing you must check is FCRA compliance. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is federal legislation that guarantees the validity and privacy of the consumer’s personal information. According to this law, only accredited consumer agencies like TransUnion can provide you with official reports.

Each time you want to get an applicant’s personal information, you must ask for permission. Every reputable background check company will inform you of this. Also, the FCRA regulates the personal information can be used, meaning that you cannot share the applicant’s reports with third parties. Note that if you use personal information provided by uncertified companies, you could be forced to pay heavy penalties.

Criminal History Checks

Tenant screening is a process that also includes criminal background checks. All the companies we’ve evaluated offer this service, but usually it doesn’t come as part of the standard pricing package. In most cases, you must purchase a more expensive pricing plan to get a criminal background report on your applicant.

Criminal background checks include detailed search of federal and local databases. Screening companies will check the sex offenders database and terrorist watchlist.

Eviction and Residence

Eviction history is also one of the most important parts of any tenant background check. For this service, you’ll probably need to purchase a more comprehensive and expensive pricing plan. However, this search is valuable, because it shows whether or not the applicant has been a good tenant in the past. If they were evicted from any previous properties, you’ll also get an explanation as to why that happened.

Turnaround Time and Reporting

Property managers use this type of service to improve their efficiency and fill vacancies sooner, so it needs to be efficient. If it isn’t, you’re not only missing out on rental income, but your ideal applicant might find somewhere else to live in the meantime.

The companies we’ve evaluated strive to provide credit score reports almost instantly after the applicant gives their permission to be checked.

Pricing

Finally, when evaluating tenant screening companies, we check the price of their services. We look for affordable pricing options and thoroughly explain what each package includes. Of course, it’s common for companies to allow property managers and landlords to pass the cost of the service on to applicants. We remind you to check what each package includes so you can be sure that you’ll get detailed credit check reports, not only the applicant’s credit score.

FAQ

Can I run a tenant screening on myself?

Generally, yes. It’s possible to conduct a tenant check on your own, but it means lots of paperwork and wasted time. It is much more efficient and secure if you use some of the tenant verification systems that we’ve reviewed. And yes, you can check your own qualifications as a tenant.

What kind of background check do landlords do?

Landlords, as well as property managers, want to know who is going to live in their units. They want to find reliable and trustworthy renters who pay their rent on time and don’t damage the property. To do so, most landlords conduct detailed background checks on their applicants. Besides the financial situation, landlords check whether the tenant has a criminal history. Eviction history is also important for many landlords. Based on this information, they can decide whether the applicant is a good choice or whether they should look for someone else.

What is the best tenant screening service?

Our tenant screening reviews show you the benefits and downsides of each of these services. In our opinion, the best service must include a detailed credit check report and criminal background check. Most of the companies we’ve reviewed offer these services, but they charge differently for them. We recommend RentPrep because it has the most affordable pricing plans and lots of add-ons that you can purchase if you wish.

What shows up on a tenant screening?

In short, a tenant screening shows everything about the applicant’s past. Besides their financial history and current credit score, it also shows their previous residence and eviction history. If an applicant has criminal records, the best tenant screening services will find them.