I have been in a discussion during the past week about how to choose a company to provide tenant screening. I was conversing with several industry professionals on the matter and while we didn’t always see eye to eye, there were absolutely some common beliefs and great recommendations on what to look for. Here are some of the hot topics we focused on for making certain you find the best option as well as reasoning for being so cautious.
Not All Data is the Same!
It’s true, pulling a credit report on an applicant will likely yield similar results because it will generally be retrieved from one of the 3 major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). Beyond this, however, any background screening done on an applicant can vary drastically. How a company receives its’ information, analyzes it, filters it, and compiles it can change based on the system that company uses. Always question what a tenant screening company does to bring you your report.
Know Your States Laws!
Did you know that being caught with a small amount of marijuana in California is a misdemeanor offense, but in Arizona the same crime is considered a felony? It is because of discrepancies like this that it is imperative to have a written standard for approval and denial criteria and verify it with a lawyer who is competent in FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and Federal / state Fair Housing Laws. An applicant who feels they are denied tenancy unfairly may have a solid case if your property does not have a clear set of standards that comply with your states laws.
Ask When Unsure!
Tenant screening companies should have a trained staff that is familiar with their reporting. If you receive a report that is unclear, missing information, or appears to be a red flag then it should be the duty of the report provider to assist you. Never assume everything is fine on a report you feel uneasy about – this could be the difference in catching an applicant trying to commit fraud.
The cost of not properly screening an applicant can range from thousands of dollars in eviction costs to potential property loss from allowing someone with an unlawful past onto your premises. Protect you, your residents, and your community by making sure you get the right information when it matters most.