In a perfect world, every tenant would meet your criteria. They’d have a stable job, be able to afford your rent, a history of making timely payments, and a clean criminal record. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are many tenants out there that can make your life as a landlord, property manager, or real estate agent difficult.
The good news is that you can avoid bad tenants by investing in tenant screening services. To make your life easier, we’ve compiled this handy list of the best tenant screening services out there.
How to Choose The Best Tenant Screening Service
Not all tenant screening services are created equal. Therefore, it’s important to explore the options available to you before you make a decision. Ideally, the tenant screening service you select will offer these features:
- Background check: With a tenant background check, you can learn about an applicant’s past convictions. These may be state-specific, federal, or both.
- Credit report and credit score: An applicant’s credit report and credit score can inform you whether they’re responsible with money.
- Eviction history: Eviction history shows where an applicant has lived and whether or not they’ve ever been evicted.
- Fast turnaround time: You don’t want to wait weeks or even months to get the information you need to accept or reject an applicant.
- Affordability: An overpriced tenant screening services can cut into your profits as a landlord.
- Flexibility: As a landlord, property manager, or real estate agent, you have your own unique needs and preferences. For this reason, you want a tenant screening services that gives you a number of package or service options.
- Customer service: There are several reasons you may want to speak to customer service. Maybe there’s a glitch in the platform. Or, maybe you need help understanding what a report means. Regardless, an easily accessible, helpful customer service team is important.
Comprehensive Review of the Best Tenant Screening Services
Now, let’s dive deep into the best tenant screening services so you can choose the right one for your unique situation.
RentPrep is ideal if you need some help making sense of background checks. You count on its certified agents to help you at no extra cost. While its lowest tier plan covers national eviction data and details on judgments, liens, and bankruptcies, criminal record and employment history are not included.
This screening services makes complying with laws a top priority. If you want to protect yourself from making compliance mistakes that can cost you time and money, RentPrep is a good option.
RentSpree offers just about every service a landlord, property manager, or real estate agent could ever want. It markets itself as a full-service online tenant application and screening platform. If you use it, your applicants can apply online using the LeaseLink feature you send to them. You’ll be able to collect online rental applications and perform screening simultaneously.
Perhaps the greatest perk of RentSpree is that it conducts a soft credit inquiry, rather than a hard credit inquiry, which can damage an applicant’s credit score. This can be very reassuring to applicants who are working to rebuild their credit.
If you’re looking for an affordable, “no frills” plan, MyRental is it. Its most basic plan can give you the scoop on an applicant’s previous addresses, eviction history, and criminal background. However, if you’d like to verify an applicant’s income or gain insight on their credit, you’ll have to upgrade to the next tiers.
MyRental stands out from other screening services because it automatically generates and sends a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)-compliant adverse action letter to any denied applicant.
Most tenant screening services offer packages. LeaseRunner, however, is different because there are no commitments or monthly fees. Its a la carte menu can give you the chance to select the types of reports you need. With LeaseRunner, you can receive a credit report, criminal report, financial report, and/or a nationwide eviction report on each applicant.
If you like the flexibility of being able to pick and choose reports and don’t mind paying a bit more for it, LeaseRunner is well worth it.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective “pay as you go” service, ScreeningWorks may be the solution for you. The amount you pay per applicant will depend on the state you live in. This is because the screening will be based on the state your applicants call home.
To use ScreeningWorks, open a free account and order your screenings right away. You can receive a background check, credit check, and eviction check on an applicant in less than a minute. Best of all, there are no tangible forms to fill out or phone calls to make as everything is done online.
Rather than packages or an a la carte menu, TurboTenant charges a flat fee every time a potential tenant applies. If you’d like one, intuitive platform to post your vacant listings and screen applicants, TurboTenant is right for you.
You can sign up and post your listings for free. The fee comes into play when you want an applicant to be screened. You can take care of the screening fee or request that applicants pay their own fee. If you go with the latter, TurboTenant won’t cost you anything.
Avail is similar to many of the other tenant screening services because it offers three subscription-based plans. Where it shines, however, is its long list of features designed to make your life easier as a landlord or property manager.
You can use Avail’s basic plan at no charge or subscribe for a free trial and test out one of its higher tier platforms. In addition to screening tenants, Avail allows you to post listings, gather applications, send out digital leases, collect rent online, track maintenance, and analyze rent prices. It’s truly a one-stop-shop for all of your property management needs.
National Tenant Network
Just like LeaseRunner, National Tenant Network does not offer any subscription packages. If you choose them, each of your applicant’s will be scored from zero to 100. Their score will take factors such as their income, debt, credit report, and eviction history into account. The higher their score, the better tenant they’ll likely be.
If your goal is to make informed tenant decisions quickly, National Tenant Network can be an invaluable resource. It can save you a great deal of time sifting through and trying to understand multiple reports.
To use National Tenant Network, you’ll pay an initial signup fee as well as fees for individual screening services every time you want to pull a report.
TenantAlert may be the ultimate choice if you are in search of rent-loss coverage. With its most basic plan, you’ll get an applicant’s previous addresses and tenancy history as well as their credit report, credit score, and bounced check history. While the basic plan gets is pretty comprehensive, you’ll need to upgrade to a higher tier package for eviction history.
Its Lease Guarantee analyzer informs you of tenants who qualify for rent-loss coverage. Lease Guarantee can cover you in the event you face lost rent, property damage, and legal fees. All you have to do is pay a yearly fee and select your preferred coverage amount.
E-Renter may be worth it if you’re hoping for a budget-friendly way to screen your tenants and/or accept checks. You get a lot of bang for your buck with its basic plan, which comes with Social Security number verification, a background check, and details on bankruptcies, liens, judgments, and evictions.
If you’d like to avoid bounced checks, you’ll love its Rent Check Advisor feature. Rent Check Advisor can help you decide whether to accept checks from a potential tenant. If Rent Check Advisors does not recommend accepting checks from a potential tenant, you may tell them they’ll have to choose another payment methods. Or, you may not rent to them at all.
Cozy is a free property management software you can use to screen and review applicants side by side. While screening is a key part of the software, there are plenty of other features you may find useful.
You can use Cozy to create custom listings and market your vacant properties. It also makes it easy to track your expenses, communicate about maintenance requests, and receive payments directly to your bank account.
Cozy profits through optional services for landlords like rent estimates and express payouts that can allow you to collect your money faster. It also charges renters for things like renters insurance and credit card payments.
We like to think of SmartMove as a more advanced version of MyRental. While it also offers income verification, it goes the extra mile. In addition to verifying an applicant’s income, it will evaluate their sources of income and financial behaviors. It’ll provide their FICO score as well.
SmartMove may be a solid pick if you’re concerned about tenants making their rent payments. It can dive deep into their previous and current financial situation so you can make smart decisions. Once SmartMove has screened an applicant, it’ll suggest that you either accept or deny them.
Out of all of the tenant screening services on this list, Naborly is the only with a free unlimited tenant background check service. You don’t have to pay a dime to use its screening services and can enjoy access to both credit reports and criminal background checks.
So, how does Naborly make money? Good question! It gives approved tenants the option to buy renters’ insurance. If you go with Naborly, you’ll find that many of your approved tenants purchase its renters’ insurance because doing so is easy and convenient. If you’re really short on cash, Naborly may be your best bet.
Since it made its debut in 1982, InstantBackgroundChecks.us is considered one of the oldest tenant screening providers around. Its similar to LeaseRunner in that there’s an a la carte menu rather than subscription-based plans.
If you like the idea of 24-hour turnaround times and the ability to speak to a live staff, InstantBackgroundChecks.us may be just what the doctor ordered. Due to the fact that InstantBackgroundChecks.us has been in business for over 30 years, it offers more comprehensive reporting than its competitors.
The Right Tenants are Essential for Real Estate Success
You can have the best property in the best location. But, if you have bad tenants, you’ll lose, rather than make money. If you’d like to increase your chances of a positive real estate experience, going through the tenant screening process is essential.
If any of the tenant screening services we discussed caught your attention, do some more research to find the right one for your unique needs. By doing so, you can prevent headaches and financial disasters down the road.
This article was originally written on December 26, 2019.