Best Tenant Screening

By Jovana Letić September 25, 2020

Renting out property can be risky. Tenants who skip payments or damage property can easily put you in the red. And the coronavirus has brought dark tidings to both tenants and landlords. Researchers estimate that the pandemic will result in more than 30 million evictions. That’s why we’ve gathered and reviewed the best tenant screening services.

The need for tenant screening companies has never been greater. These services allow you to run background checks on prospective tenants, allowing you to see what kind of people will be renting, occupying, and caring for your property. With this invaluable information at hand, you’re bound to run into less trouble with future tenants.

  • Free rental application
  • A la carte checks
  • Fast reports
  • One package lacks a credit check
Price $24.99/screen
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  • Includes SmartMove package
  • Affordable
  • Full credit reports
  • One package makes a hard inquiry
Price $18.5/screen
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  • TransUnion credit checks
  • Great reporting
  • ResidentScore reports
  • Lackluster basic plan
Price $25/screen
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  • Instant reports
  • Many a la carte services
  • Terror Watchlist check
  • Credit check requires site membership
Price $20/screen
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  • Great property management features
  • Thorough reports
  • Fraud indicators
  • Expensive
Price $35/screen
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What does an online tenant screening service do?

In order to help you reduce the risk of renting out your property to bad renters, the best tenant screening services for landlords run background checks on prospective renters. They scan government databases to see whether the applicant has a criminal record and credit agencies to see if there’s a history of missing payments or evictions. The applicant’s credit score and employment history all become part of the report.

These checks may seem invasive, but without them you’d be going in half-blind. Without the history of your would-be tenant, you’re stuck making high-risk decisions with serious financial consequences on the basis of handshakes and hunches.

However, not every tenant screening company covers all of the recommended checks, and the depth of their reporting varies. So it makes sense to shop around for the best tenant screening service you can find.

The best-rated tenant screening services don’t come cheap. But given the stakes, this isn’t a service you should choose on the basis of saving a few dollars.

Finding the optimal tenant screening service isn’t easy. Prices vary, they scan different databases, and they provide different services. We’ve picked them apart to bring you an unbiased and timely review of the best screening services on the internet. Our in-depth reviews should help you make a solid choice.

1. MyRental

" Best tenant risk assessment tools "

  • SafeRent scoring
  • Allows owners to pass on the fee to applicants
  • Thorough and affordable

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Free rental application
  • A la carte checks
  • Fast reports
  • One package lacks a credit check

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Free rental application
  • A la carte checks
  • Fast reports
  • One package lacks a credit check
  • SafeRent scoring
  • Allows owners to pass on the fee to applicants
  • Thorough and affordable

Another strong contender for the internet’s best tenant screening website is MyRental. Founded in 2010 by CoreLogic, it provides online tenant screening services to property managers, landlords, and real estate agents. MyRental is one of the rare services that offer free rental applications for applicants. In addition, it offers both a la carte screening reports and full-fledged tenant screening packages.

Features

MyRental has the most diversified tenant screening offer we’ve seen so far. There are two background check for renters packages to choose from, with the option to pay for individual background checks on demand.

Our tenant background search review reveals that the inexpensive Basic package includes previous address history, evictions, terrorist alerts, and a multi-state criminal and sex offender registry check. Since this package does not include a credit check, it does not require the applicant’s permission and the report is usually available immediately.

The Premium package includes everything from the Basic plan plus a credit report and SafeRent score. The SafeRent score is similar to SmartMove’s ResidentScore. It combines several types of data to give you an estimate of how risky a tenant is, represented on a 200-800 scale. Additionally, you can compare the applicant’s scores to the average in your area and see the acceptance rate among other landlords for people with similar SafeRent scores.

You can use this candidate for best tenant screening services free if you delegate the screening cost to the applicant. Since this package includes a credit check, it does require the applicant to provide consent via email. This constitutes a “soft” credit inquiry.

The credit report, criminal record, sex offender background check, and eviction history can all be ordered as separate background checks. The free online rental application lets you submit applications quickly and easily, allowing you to fill vacancies more rapidly.

Pricing

The Basic MyRental package costs $24.99 per screening. This is an average price for screening packages that do not include credit reports. Thankfully, it does contain eviction histories, something SmartMove’s least expensive plan lacks.

The Premium package is on par with what you get from the other best tenant screening services. It’s slightly cheaper than equivalent plans from competitors: $34.99 per screening.

You can also order individual reports: credit check ($14.99), eviction history ($7.99), multi-state criminal ($19.99), statewide criminal ($9.99), and country criminal ($14.99).

Final thoughts

We love what MyRental brings to the table. It does all the necessary background checks for the same price as competitors – or even less. The free rental application and the a la carte background checks are a huge plus.

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2. RentPrep

" Best a la carte offer "

  • Diversified offer
  • Affordable
  • FCRA-verified screeners

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Includes SmartMove package
  • Affordable
  • Full credit reports
  • One package makes a hard inquiry

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Includes SmartMove package
  • Affordable
  • Full credit reports
  • One package makes a hard inquiry
  • Diversified offer
  • Affordable
  • FCRA-verified screeners

Next up in our tenant screening reviews is RentPrep, one of the industry’s most popular tenant screening options. The company behind RentPrep is Fidelis Screening Solutions, which started by running background checks for large property management companies. Later, the company introduced a screening service tailored to smaller property managers and landlords, which is how RentPrep was born.

Features

RentPrep offers two packages that differ significantly in what they bring to the table. We love to see screening services offer distinct packages instead of just forcing you to buy the most expensive by leaving essential features out of the more affordable.

You already know about the first of RentPrep’s packages, because we already covered it in this review of the industry’s best background check service companies. RentRep’s first package is actually the SmartMove credit report. This is the “middle” package, SmartCheck Plus, which includes a full credit report, ResidentScore, Social Security number verification, address history, eviction history, national criminal and sex offender search, and bankruptcies. Judgment and liens reports are available as a paid add-on, as is income verification.

This screening package requires the applicant’s confirmation via email. It is therefore considered a “soft” inquiry that won’t affect the applicant’s score at credit bureaus.

The other package is called the RentRep Background Check. This package includes Social Security number verification, address history, evictions history, bankruptcies, and judgment and liens. The criminal/sex offender background check, credit report, and income verification are all available as paid add-ons.

This package is a cheap background check that differs from the SmartMove version in several ways. First, the credit report and criminal background checks are not included. However, its criminal background check covers all 50 states, as opposed to SmartMove’s 44, because it’s generated manually by FCRA-certified screeners.

This package does not require the tenant’s consent. It makes a hard credit inquiry, which may affect the applicant’s credit score. Since it does not require confirmation or permission from the prospective tenant, results are ready within an hour.

Pricing

When you’re researching a prospective tenant, the best screening services from RentPrep differ in price. The SmartMove package retains its original price of $38 per screening. The judgment and liens add-on costs $4.95, while income verification is an additional $10.

The RentRep Background check costs $18 per screening. The criminal and sex offender search adds $4, the credit decision report is $9.95, and income verification is $10.

Final thoughts

The beauty of RentRep is the variety of options it offers. You can opt for the less expensive package, which provides instant results but is considered a hard credit inquiry, or take the tried-and-true SmartMove package. With lots of affordable add-on searches at your disposal, you can determine just how much money you’ll spend on tenant screenings.

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3. TransUnion SmartMove

" Great for quick and precise credit checks "

  • Great credit checks
  • Thorough criminal background search
  • Competitive pricing

Things we liked / disliked:

  • TransUnion credit checks
  • Great reporting
  • ResidentScore reports
  • Lackluster basic plan

Things we liked / disliked:

  • TransUnion credit checks
  • Great reporting
  • ResidentScore reports
  • Lackluster basic plan
  • Great credit checks
  • Thorough criminal background search
  • Competitive pricing

SmartMove is a tenant screening service operated by TransUnion, one of America’s three major credit bureaus. Launched in 2010, its service is used by millions – renters and landlords alike.

Our tenant background search reviews show that the obvious advantage of this service is that it’s provided by one of the three companies that supply credit reports. However, while the service is quick and the reports are thorough, SmartMove’s less expensive plans are pretty lackluster. If you choose SmartMove, you should prepare to sign up for one of the pricier plans.

Features

One of SmartMove’s unique features is the ResidentScore report. Most tenant screening services give you credit scores, which are intended to help lenders predict the outcome of extending credit to the applicant. SmartMove’s ResidentScore is a numerical value specifically created to represent tenant viability. The ResidentScore is represented on a 350-850 scale.

While conducting our tenant screening service review, we were also impressed by SmartMove’s criminal background checks. The company conducts 44 state criminal background checks, scans law enforcement most wanted lists, and checks the national sex offender registry – a pretty thorough check. You also get the credit reports, eviction reports, and “income insights” data you’d expect from a TransUnion company.

Income insights is a unique SmartMove feature – an estimate of whether the applicant makes enough money to pay rent. That’s one reason SmartMove asks potential tenants to supply additional information – income from an inheritance or pension, say, or from child support – along with permission to review the applicant’s credit history. The best tenant screening services are supposed to be speedy in their reports, and SmartMove is – if the applicant reads the email and responds in a timely fashion.

Pricing

SmartMove has three pricing plans. The more expensive plans provide more data in the tenant background check package. The first package, SmartCheck Basic, costs $25 per screening. It gives you access to only the credit-based ResidentScore and the criminal background check. The lack of an eviction report in the basic package is a big disappointment, as that is one of the most useful and important reports for any landlord.

SmartCheck Plus is a big step up – it belongs on any list of the best background check plans, as it includes a full credit report and eviction history in addition to everything found in the Basic package. The cost is $38 per screening.

SmartCheck Premium adds the Income Insight report. It’s slightly pricier – $40 per screening.

All SmartMove plans allow you to pass on the screening costs to applicants with no additional fees for you.

Final thoughts

All in all, SmartMove is a great option for tenant screening. Its unique ResidentScore and Income Insights are useful, and it provides reports quickly. However, it’s fairly expensive and the most affordable package is too bare-bones to be worth the money.

4. TurboTenant

" Best property management platform "

  • Many property management options
  • Comprehensive reports
  • Great criminal screening

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great property management features
  • Thorough reports
  • Fraud indicators
  • Expensive

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great property management features
  • Thorough reports
  • Fraud indicators
  • Expensive
  • Many property management options
  • Comprehensive reports
  • Great criminal screening

Another widely popular solution on our list of the best tenant screening services for landlords is TurboTenant.

This company doesn’t focus solely on tenant screening; TurboTenant is actually a full-fledged cloud solution for property managers. In addition to screening, it allows free rental applications, tenant tracking, building maintenance management, and the dissemination of vacancy listings.

Features

TurboTenant advertises its screening services as free for landlords. What this means is that you’ll be passing on the costs of screening to your applicants. This is a fairly standard practice in the market, but rarely do the companies advertise it as free so aggressively. Most of Turbo’s competitors pass fees to the application as a second, optional choice – not the main way to pay for screenings.

Our tenant screening report review reveals that TurboTenant offers two background check packages.

The first, TurboReport, includes credit and criminal reports. These include the credit bureau score from TransUnion, Social Security number verification, employment history, fraud indicators, payment history, collection accounts, civil records, and previous addresses. Its criminal background check covers state-wide criminal, violent criminal, and sex offender checks.

This package includes a lot of useful reports, but unfortunately lacks the applicant’s eviction history.

The more comprehensive package is called TurboReport Pro. In addition to everything found in the less expensive package, the Pro plan adds a detailed eviction report. Our tenant screening service reviews revealed this report contains data like failures to pay rent, judgments for rent, writs and warrants for eviction, and unlawful detainers.

Both plans fail to provide any kind of employment and income reporting, which we’ve come to expect from most screening services. Other than that curious omission, both packages provide great reports. The lack of eviction data in the entry-level report means most people will choose the Pro plan.

Pricing

TurboReport costs $35 per screening, while TurboReport Pro is $45 per screening. While both plans do include credit reports, it’s still a bit pricey when compared to the competition.

Final thoughts

When compared to other entries on our list of the best landlord screening services, TurboTenant presents a solid choice. With easy-to-understand plans and pricing, and fairly comprehensive reports, it represents a great choice for landlords – if the price isn’t too steep for you.

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5. Verify Tenant

" Provides quickest reports "

  • Very affordable
  • Reports are available instantly
  • Does not require tenant permission

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Instant reports
  • Many a la carte services
  • Terror Watchlist check
  • Credit check requires site membership

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Instant reports
  • Many a la carte services
  • Terror Watchlist check
  • Credit check requires site membership
  • Very affordable
  • Reports are available instantly
  • Does not require tenant permission

Verify Tenant is a small tenant screening service that’s been around since 2005. Headquartered in Florida, the company says it has conducted more than 17,500 successful screenings so far. Verify Tenant differs from its competitors, as it offers two specialized screening reports that are available instantly but lack credit checks. In order to receive credit checks, you must become a member on the Verify Tenant website.

Features

Upon conducting our tenant credit and background check reviews, we’ve discovered that Verify Tenant has two background check packages on offer, plus a la carte background check services, site membership, and customized pricing packages.

The company offers two tenant screening packages: Silver and Gold. The Silver package includes checks of the national criminal record, the sex offender registry, and the terror watchlist. Neither eviction records nor credit reports are included.

The Gold Package adds the much-needed eviction history to the tenant verification services package. If you’re not rolling your own package from the a la carte menu, the Gold package is definitely the way to go.

Both reports are available instantly, since they do not include credit checks and do not require the applicant to give permission. Both the criminal and sex offender searches cover all 50 states.

Verify Tenant provides TransUnion credit reports, but to obtain them, you must become a member on the company website. This entails filling in a somewhat lengthy application, which takes some time. This is surely not the easiest or fastest way to get credit reports.

As for a la carte services, our tenant credit check review reveals that the following reports can be obtained individually:

  • Rental history verification
  • Employment history verification
  • Reference verification
  • National eviction report
  • Bad check report
  • Bankruptcies, liens, and judgments search
  • DMV driving record
  • County courthouse criminal record search

On top of all this, Verify Tenant also provides customized screening packages.

Pricing

Let’s go over the pricing for Verify Tenant’s rental background check services. The Silver package costs $20 per screening, while the Gold package costs $25. This is less expensive than most of the best credit and background check for landlords services – and it should be, considering that it lacks a credit report. Since the Gold package includes an eviction history, we definitely think it’s worth the extra $5.

Signing up for membership is free, while custom packages are priced according to individual quotes. You need to contact the staff and work out a price.

Final thoughts

Verify Tenant might seem lackluster when compared to some companies on our list, but its affordable, rapid services look great when you wish to run criminal background checks. If you’re looking for credit checks, other services might be more suitable.

Why do I need tenant screening?

You might be tempted to ask, “Do I really need one of the best online tenant screening services?”

This skepticism is certainly justified. Like any smart landlord, you’re looking to cut costs wherever you can – especially when you consider that tenant screening can be very pricey if you’re running a background check on multiple applicants for each property. The costs can stack up quickly.

Furthermore, tenant screening isn’t an instant process. It takes time to gather and review all the reports, and you’ll need time to make a decision. You are forgiven for thinking that tenant screening is a costly and tiresome endeavor.

The advantages of the best tenant background check services far outweigh their cost, however. You’ll get better tenants who pay promptly and treat your property responsibly.

The lack of proper tenant screening can have terrible consequences for your property. Missed payments, damaged property, evictions – all stressful and costly situations that can potentially make your property unrentable for a certain period of time. That’s an expensive proposition.

That’s why we say tenant screening credit checks and other background checks are worth every penny.

Credit checks give you invaluable insight into a potential tenant’s financial history and current situation. Do they pay bills on time? Have they filed for bankruptcy? Are they in debt? How often have they struggled financially, and what kind of debt are they in now?

The best criminal background check services are equally important. A tenant with a serious criminal record might pose a significant risk not only to your property but to neighbors and other people around them.

Employment and eviction histories are also a crucial part of tenant background checks. Previous evictions are almost always a red flag, and probably a sign that you should avoid the tenant. The benefits of verifying the applicant’s current employment status are obvious: You can see whether the renter will have enough income to pay rent in the first place.

Of course, all the information gained from the best background check for landlords services should be analyzed as part of an overall evaluation. While serious criminal offenses are a definitive sign not to take on a renter, smaller violations – especially in their younger years – could be looked over. The same goes for debts: The size of debts and whether they’re connected to credit cards, student loans, or medical expenses make all the difference. A few late rent payments aren’t the end of the world if there’s a good reason.

Methodology

When determining what are the best tenant screening services, we’ve relied on our trusted evaluation methodology to find the greatest service providers on the internet.

Identifying the most affordable and best tenant screening services isn’t a clear-cut process. Much of it depends on your personal preferences, the amount of money you’re willing to spend, and what kinds of background check package suits your needs the most. Here are the metrics and features we focused on in our reviews.

Credit checks

One of the most common – and arguably the most important – types of background checks is the credit check. In the US, the credit score is one of the most important representations of a person’s financial standing. As we conducted our best tenant screening services reviews, we looked at whether the service offers to conduct credit checks, how much time they need to fetch the report, and how credit checks fit into the company’s pricing plans.

Most of the time, you really shouldn’t consider screening services that don’t offer credit checks. Credit checks represent the main way to look into a would-be tenant’s financial history and discipline – current and past credit accounts, outstanding debts, third-party collections, missed payments, and so forth. Employment status reports usually come with credit checks as well.

Credit scores and credit reports are two different things. Some screening services only offer to request an applicant’s FICO score – a single numerical representation of the applicant’s creditworthiness. Other companies that provide the best background check for landlords offer credit reports – a much more detailed look into a person’s current and past credit, debt, and other relevant data.

In most cases, a credit check requires the tenant’s written permission (the signature on the rental application is usually counted as valid permission.) Another thing to keep in mind is that when it comes to credit checks, there are hard and soft “pulls.” A credit check based on a hard inquiry will show up on the applicant’s credit history and may deduct a handful of points from the applicant’s score.

While some of the best tenant screening sites make hard inquiries, most initiate soft ones. Soft inquiries don’t alter the prospective tenant’s credit score in any way. While hard pulls only slightly impact the credit score, it is a kindness to applicants to avoid such unnecessary inquiries when possible.

FCRA compliance

The Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 is a federal law that serves to guarantee the accuracy and fairness of credit reporting. At its core, it serves to protect the rights of those whose credit is being checked by a third party. It also includes a guarantee that people can get free copies of their own credit reports periodically. The best FCRA tenant screening services provide accurate and fair credit checks for tenants, minimizing the risk of wrongly representing credit scores or disclosing scores without the prospective tenant’s authorization.

FCRA compliance is not just important – it’s mandatory. The penalties for breaking this law can be steep. In 2018, RealPage Inc. paid $3 million in a settlement for failing to take all the precautions necessary to provide accurate credit reports. Hence, FCRA tenant screening services are the only ones to consider.

Criminal background check

The best rental background check covers the applicant’s criminal history. Tenant screening companies scan various government databases to check whether the person in question has a criminal record of any sort.

In addition to the risks of renting to people with criminal pasts, having tenants with criminal records can cause trouble between you and insurance companies. While you’re not legally obliged to run criminal background checks, the insurance company may refuse tenants with a criminal record, increase premiums, or cancel your policy.

Ideally, you want the screening service to scan both state and federal databases. Many screening services scan law enforcement most wanted lists and the sex offender registry as well, giving you a more complete report.

Residence and eviction

Bulk tenant background checks are not complete without residence and eviction history checks. These records give you direct insight into how the applicant previously acted as a tenant.

First off, the current address can tell you what kind of situation they live in now and whether they’ll be able to pay the rent. If they’re currently living at their parents’ home or at a friend’s place, they may be in a financial bind and unable to make timely rent payments. Be sure to use judgment in this situation, however, as student debt, the coronavirus pandemic, and locations with high rental costs have persuaded many perfectly fine potential tenants to live with their parents for a while before striking out on their own.

The best tenant screening websites usually offer to provide you with a list of the tenant’s past addresses, as well as their eviction history, if any. This can give you lots of relevant input into whether you should consider renting your property to one applicant or another. In most cases, residence and eviction history are considered the most important parts of background checks a renter screening service provides, next to the credit score.

Reporting

While all of these background checks are extremely important, the quality and speed of the reports are also paramount. If the service takes a long time to provide the reports, it can significantly slow down the whole process and your prospective tenant can be moved to another address before you learn of their sterling qualifications. In our tenant background check reviews, we focused on finding services that give you results as soon as possible.

Another thing to check is which databases the service consults. For credit reports, there are only three options: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. However, a criminal history report could include or exclude many state and federal databases. The conventional wisdom holds true here – when it comes to data sources, the more the better.

Pricing

Finally, we have prices. Tenant screening services do not come cheap. However, we’ve focused on finding the best credit check for landlords that provide the most value for the money.

Pricing is generally structured in two ways. Some sites offer a la carte pricing, which means you can conduct the needed check for a one-time fee. Others bundle various services into compact packages. You’ll also find recommendations for free tenant checks, but these are limited in scope and not detailed enough to be truly useful. None of them earned a place on our list of the best services.

FAQ

What do landlords use for background checks?

Landlords use a variety of tools for background checks. In addition to tenant background check services, they check references and contact employers themselves.

How do I get a tenant screening report?

Obtaining a screening report is fairly easy. Usually, you require just some basic applicant information that you provide to the tenant screening service and they’ll provide you with a report. Some harder checks, like credit checks, may require the applicant to provide permission and additional info.

What's a tenant screening report?

A tenant screening report contains a bundle of information about an applicant that’s relevant to assessing whether they’ll be a good renter who pays rent on time and treats the property well.

What shows up on a tenant screening?

The best tenant screening services provide thorough screening reports that include criminal histories, sex offender checks, employment and address history, eviction history, a credit check, and proof of income.