Once in awhile we hear from a landlord looking for a tenant screening bureau.
A bureau, in and of itself, is an office or department for transacting a particular business.
There is no official government regulated tenant screening bureau.
Instead there are three main credit bureaus that credit reporting agencies get their data from.
These are for-profit agencies and not government owned.
They compile credit reports for lenders and also tenant screening services to put together information to determine if someone is low or high risk.
Our company (RentPrep) and many others are credit reporting agencies that will use data from one of the three credit bureaus to help compile a screening report.
The reason your credit score (or your tenant applicant’s credit score) can vary is that each bureau has different standards and ways to tally scores.
Can I connect directly with a bureau?
Yes, there are two services that connect directly with the credit bureaus.
Experian offers a service called Experian Connect that allows someone to purchase their credit report and share with others for a 30 day period.
TransUnion offers MySmartMove which is a little more comprehensive because it also includes criminal and eviction records which are important to most landlords.
Why would I use any other tenant screening service?
Currently both the services mentioned above are instant credit reports.
This means you get your data back as soon as the tenant applicant submits payment.
This sounds nice but also comes with issues. Here are the three main issues:
- Manual extraction databases
- Customer service
- FCRA compliance
Manual extraction databases:
If you research TransUnion you will see that the criminal data is not available in every state. That’s because some states require “manual data extraction” because they don’t allow software programs to pull that information. Instead, it must be manually extracted by someone.
There are no screening agents at those services and therefore manual data extraction is not a possibility.
The sheer size of those companies make it hard to deliver quality customer service to every landlord. If you call the person on the other end is not going to be FCRA certified and perhaps won’t even know what that means.
Here at RentPrep we hire and train so that every agent becomes an FRCA certified screener. This means our screeners are educated on the laws of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This helps to ensure that the data you are using to judge your tenant applicants is compliant with the rules of the FCRA.
If you decide to deny a tenant applicant because of a bankruptcy from 11 years ago you can get in trouble. That’s because that information is only reportable within 10 years and then needs to be omitted from any tenant screening reports.
Choosing an FCRA certified screening service will help you keep you safer from legal trouble.
How do I choose a tenant screening service?
The right tenant screening service is the one that suits your needs as a landlord.
If you want an instant report with a full credit score I suggest trying TransUnion Full Credit Report, formerly known as SmartMove.
If you’re fine with waiting a few hours you can use a custom service such as RentPrep.
It all depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a few factors that are important to most landlords.
- Ability to have the tenant pay
- Ability to exclude tenant involvement
- Instant vs. Custom reporting
- Credit Scores vs. Credit Checks
Decide what is important to you and your business and then choose a service that matches up with your needs.