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Not All Tenant Screening is Created Equally

You can’t always predict who will be a good tenant, but past behavior often indicates future behavior. Whether you’re a landlord, a property manager, or a real estate agent, you should be doing everything in your power to protect yourself from the hassle of dealing with bad tenants and bringing unwanted tenants into your community as they can be can be both time-consuming and financially destructive.

Tenant screening can be handled in a few different ways, and one screening process is not always as successful as another. Making your decision solely on price can be a mistake, as many companies bypass certain steps in order to keep prices low. Here are some things you should know before deciding how to handle screening in the future.


  • Many companies advertise no on-site inspection for their tenant screening; however, you should know that these inspections are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. While these companies can offer some valuable information about your tenant’s past, they are not providing full credit reports. Instead, these companies access public data to compile an independent score that only partially represents your tenant’s history. These companies tend to offer the cheapest prices, but at the expense of legality and comprehensive information.
  • Many companies require the tenant to initiate the transaction. While this practice isn’t inherently problematic, it can cause certain problems. For one, because it requires tenant initiation, time can become an issue. In this scenario, the property manager loses some of the control. In some instances it also prevents you from charging screening process fees, which can cause you to lose the additional revenue that oftentimes accompanies these fees.
  • Some sites offer the opportunity for you to control what information is being searched, without having to initiate each report from the proper channels. In other words, you choose which reports you would like ran, and they compile the selected information for you. Whether you’re interested in background checks, bankruptcy reports, social security validation, evictions, liens, and judgment searches, or all of the above, you can request all of these reports in the same place, and because they strictly adhere to all of the Credit Reporting Guidelines, you will be protected from future litigation without having to keep track of all of the necessary guidelines.

Tenant screening is one of the most important ways that a landlord can protect their investment, and it should not be taken lightly. The best way to ensure that your property is in good hands is by pulling a credit report that includes reports from at least two of the three bureaus. The three major U.S.-based consumer credit reporting companies are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, and these companies are regulated under the FCRA, which provides a level of confidence that cannot be attained through other methods. Be a smart consumer when initiating the screening process and remember that sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

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