From the Forum – Tenant Screening?

by Prince Of Petworth May 16, 2016 at 2:00 pm 19 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user LaTur

“Looking for recommendations for tenant screening services that that have been successful for management companies and private landlords. Thanks very much.”

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  • textdoc

    Smartmove.com. (I think affiliated with the credit bureau TransUnion). They can do a credit check and a criminal background check.

    • Anon Spock

      +1 easy to use and haven’t had issues

    • mtpresident


    • MR

      I would discourage anyone from using SmartMove based on my experience last fall. I submitted an application to rent an apartment in Dupont and then completed the SmartMove application online. A few days later, the owner told us she had found someone else to take the apartment and claimed “the background check didn’t go through.” We couldn’t figure out why that would happen, so I asked for details. The landlord provided me with the report she received, and it showed my credit history (which was accurate) and then included page after page of offenses that the report said I had committed. In total, there were 69 offenses that had been committed by people with my name throughout the country, and SmartMove made it seem as if they were all committed by me.

      I then contacted SmartMove and told them that their inaccurate information had cost us an apartment. They confirmed that for the background check, they only search for information based on your full name and they do not compare the hits with any other personally identifiable information. So if you have a common name, as I do, then the search they perform may come back with a ton of hits that were committed by other people with the same name. SmartMove offered to conduct an investigation, and four weeks later they sent me and the landlord an update confirming that I had not committed any of the offenses in the original report. But obviously by then it was too late and new occupants were already living in the apartment we had applied for.

      • Anonamom

        I had a similar issue with Merchants Information Systems, except in my case it was eight evictions. I called to dispute it, and the very helpful customer service person indicated that they do a broad search of first and last name only, no other identifiers, in the evictions database. Since no one actually said that was the reason we were declined, I never checked my report. When I finally did I was really shocked. I disputed them, got them removed, and we sign a lease today.
        Apparently this kind of thing happens a lot; I would recommend anyone looking for a place who gets declined for any reason to ask for a copy of their report.

      • Anonymous

        It’s unfortunate that this happened to you, but it won’t discourage me from using SmartMove with prospective tenants. I will add, though, that if someone’s report showed seemingly contradictory information (good credit, bad criminal history), I’d call the applicant and let them know — not avoid them and then give a BS answer, when pressed, like “your background check didn’t go through.” That’s poor communication on the part of the landlord (who may have done you a favor, in hindsight).

        • Anon Spock

          +1 That was my first thought.

        • textdoc

          +1. From the landlord’s point of view, a “false positive” like this is not a reason not to use SmartMove… but I appreciate that from the prospective tenant’s point of view, it’s pretty rotten to have other people’s criminal histories represented as being yours and to lose a potential apartment as a result.
          I’ll certainly keep this in mind in the future if I ever get any SmartMove results showing a criminal record.

        • MR

          I agree with your points. A simple phone call could have cleared this up, but oh well. And I recognize that no system is perfect and, as textdoc put it, a false positive might not be a reason to forgo using SmartMove if you’re a landlord. I appreciate the perspective from the other side :)

  • DC1

    I’ve had pretty good experience with cozy.co, their reports and background checks are pretty thorough… Three tenants and no issues.

  • J

    We used https://www.rentapplication.net/ and it was very user friendly and not expensive. Tenants pay them directly for either credit check or credit+background check, then they e-mail you their report.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    We use Hannah with Rent the District. Many tenants in a 4 BR house.

  • Kendra

    Another vote for Cozy. I use them for credit checks and rent payments. So far so good.

  • Jon

    Don’t underestimate the free check you can do just by searching Facebook and Google. It won’t be as exhaustive as something you pay for, but it can give you a sense of what to expect.

    • textdoc

      IMO, it’s best to do this in addition to an actual credit check and background check, rather than instead of them.

      • Jon

        Yes, that’s what I meant. Use it to eliminate obvious problems right away, before you spend money on a more thorough search.

  • victoria

    I’ve never used a screening company. I set an attractive rent, then ask all applicants to bring me “anything that will convince me to rent to you.” Those who show up with credit reports, current landlord information, pay stubs etc. go to the top of the list. (But my rental is very attractive & great location, so I usually have 50+ applicants any time it is available.)

    • Anon Spock

      This is such a Popville sort of answer. LOL

  • Christine

    +1 for Cozy.co. My landlord used it for a credit check at the time of our application, and we now use it to electronically pay our rent–super convenient, no complaints.


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