When inviting new tenants into your rental property, the last thing you want are surprises. Knowing who you’re renting to, their criminal and eviction background, and their ability to pay rent on time is essential, which is why requesting a tenant screening report is effort well spent.
Not all tenant screening services are created equal, though. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows tenants to sue landlords if their applications are rejected due to inaccurate or illegally reported information, so it’s best to invest in a service that you trust to source information appropriately.
These are the best tenant screening services for landlords in 2021 and what each offers so you can make sure you’re getting the accurate information you want.
What Are the Best Tenant Screening Services for Landlords?
While many of the tenant screening services on this list provide similar basic screening reports, some offer more flexibility in cost, helpful tools, and added security than others. Here’s a breakdown of the six best tenant screening services for landlords:
If you want to keep track of all pieces of the property management puzzle, consider starting with Avail. You can use Avail just for tenant screening reports, or as a turn-key solution for the whole rental management process — including listing your property, drafting state-specific leases, collecting rent, and more.
More than other services on the list, Avail is designed to make your applicant your partner throughout the screening process, reducing your workload and increasing the likelihood you’ll end up with qualified leads whose interest is sincere. Tenant rental history, job history, and income verification are free, and you can decide which additional screening reports you want to add, along with who pays for the reports.
Applicants’ personal information, such as social security numbers, are secured on the platform so you don’t have to worry about being the keeper of sensitive information.
Differentiator: Includes reference checks from prior landlords and provides all the tools to easily move forward with a tenant you like, including leases and rent collection.
Like many services on this list, RentPrep offers a basic screening report package and a more robust version. Each package also comes with the option to add on extra reports a la carte style, including income verification.
Its basic version is the most affordable screening on the list at $18.95. At that price, you get a rental background check that includes identity verification, an evictions and bankruptcies report, and information on any judgments or liens against the applicant.
The information is pulled from databases, independently verified by RentPrep and does not require tenant involvement, and you’ll get results within an hour of your request.
However, for that rate, you sacrifice getting a credit report or a criminal history, both of which are standard in basic packages from other services on the list.
Differentiator: The lowest-cost basic option, but without full credit or criminal history reports.
3. National Tenant Network
If you’re a data wonk and want to be more hands-on with choosing your own slate of reports, National Tenant Network could be a good choice. The service is mostly a la carte, with a wide selection of reporting options including reports not offered by other services, like Business Credit Analysis and Retail Credit Analysis.
Although one-off reports are available, a membership (a one-time payment of $35) gives you access to screening resources, tenant management tools, and a slate of screening reports (individually priced) so you can tailor your screening and management process to your needs.
Differentiator: Most customizable reporting options (with a membership fee).
Cozy, now Apartments.com rental solutions, is designed to make the full tenant management process more transparent and efficient. The credit and background checks by both services are similarly detailed and shared with applicants and landlords alike, but there are two main differences:
- Apartments.com charges applicants for screening reports ($24.99 for a background check and credit report bundle), while Avail provides the option for applicants or landlords to foot the bill.
- Avail includes prior landlord references in the background check, while Apartments.com does not.
Cozy used to directly offer renters insurance policies, but tenants will now need to find a new provider for renters insurance on Apartments.com. These tenant screening services are currently not offered to landlords with commercial properties in their portfolio. .
Differentiator: Landlords that previously used Cozy to manage their residential properties can access more tools on Apartments.com.
If you’re the kind of landlord who wishes you could poll an audience of your peers, MyRental might be a helpful platform. The site’s screening reports focus on presenting applicant analysis, which can help take some of the guesswork out of evaluating leads.
In addition to providing the applicant’s TransUnion credit score, MyRental’s premium report takes data from credit checks and background checks for your applicant and assigns them a SafeRent Score between 200 and 800. The higher the score, the stronger the applicant. The site also shows you how that applicant’s score compares to other renters in the area and the percentage of landlords who have accepted applicants with similar scores.
Note that landlords submit applicant info and pay for the basic package. The premium report asks applicants to submit details themselves and the landlord can choose who pays.
Differentiator: Uses a proprietary risk-assessment model to help you evaluate applicants quickly, but only the premium package offers credit report and SafeRent Score.
6. SmartMove (via TransUnion)
SmartMove offers the same level of detailed credit, criminal, and eviction checks as other sites on the list, but it goes a step further on the financial side with an Income Insights Report.
As a service by TransUnion, SmartMove emphasizes getting an accurate understanding of your applicant’s financial picture — including analysis to determine whether their self-reported income is accurate, or if you should collect more information.
Similar to Avail, a tenant initiates SmartMove screening reports themselves, adding an extra level of security by not passing sensitive information (like their social security number) to the landlord.
Differentiator: Can alert you to an applicant who may be less than truthful about income.
Start Screening Tenants With Avail
Thorough tenant screening is the first and most important step in finding a tenant who will take good care of your unit. Learn more about important things to look out for when screening tenants or create an account with Avail to start the free tenant screening process today.