As a landlord, it’s absolutely critical to conduct a tenant background check before giving out the keys to your precious investment. A tenant background check enables you to evaluate which prospective tenant is the best fit for your unit.
Tenant screening is not a step any property owner or manager should skip out on. Screening reports answer the same pressing questions you face each time a rental unit opens up:
- Will this tenant pay rent on time?
- Have they been evicted before?
- Do they have a criminal background?
Landlords and property managers are to an extent responsible for the safety of their residents and premises, especially when it applies to criminal activities. The only way to reduce your liability is to screen your tenants before you sign a lease agreement. You have the right to conduct a background check and review potential tenant credit reports, as per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
There's no shortage of tenant screening agencies, and it can be difficult to choose the best among them. You want a screening service that gives you the whole story. And this is where TransUnion SmartMove comes in.
What Does a TransUnion SmartMove Report Show?
SmartMove is a great tenant screening solution since it provides insights directly from TransUnion, one of the three major consumer credit bureaus in the United States. The unique nature of screening directly through a credit reporting agency places SmartMove in a class of its own. It’s a great resource that scores your prospective tenants based on how reliable they’re likely to be.
SmartMove gives you access to comprehensive credit, eviction and criminal FCRA-regulated data that was once only available to large property management companies. It enables you to make educated leasing decisions.
So, what exactly is included in a SmartMove Report?
- Resident Score
SmartMove grades potential tenants based on their past rental performance to give you an idea of how reliable they are. According to TransUnion, their resident scores can predict evictions with 15 percent more reliability.
- Credit Report
It goes without saying that SmartMove provides trustworthy indicators of your renter's financial reliability and spending habits. It's regulated by a "Big 3" credit bureaus, after all. It provides easily digestible information in a clear format allowing you to dig deep into your tenant’s financial habits.
- Eviction History
The report provides eviction information and other problematic behaviours such as Tenant Judgments for Rent and unlawful detainments. If a tenant has been unreliable in the past, it's likely that it's a trend that will continue into the future.
- Criminal Checks
It’s surprising to some property owners that SmartMove goes the extra mile of providing criminal background checks. In fact, with SmartMove, you get the benefit of a screening search that covers over 300 million criminal records from both state and national databases.
SmartMove goes beyond financial data to provide you with all the information you need to know.
Conducting a Tenant Criminal Background Check with SmartMove
You need to ensure that you're entrusting your property and your tenants' well-being to the right person. In addition to financial insights and credit information, SmartMove provides a detailed criminal report. This way, you can find tenants who'll respect your property and other residents.
The SmartMove search database covers:
- National Sex Offender Public Registry
- Most Wanted databases, including the DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshals and Homeland Security
- Felony and misdemeanor criminal records from 44 states
But there is one caveat. Certain states do not allow "instantaneous access" to their criminal data, which restricts SmartMove’s ability to return some records. If your tenant committed criminal activity in Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Wyoming or South Dakota, you won’t be able to access this information.
When reviewing criminal records, it’s advisable to take an individualized approach to each applicant. Approximately 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record. That said, this statistic is not without its intricacies. A criminal record gives you the opportunity to consider the nature and severity of the conviction. Not all hits on criminal records are deal-breakers which is why it's important to make a case-by-case decision.
Your state might also have specific rules and regulations that dictate when and how you can request criminal background checks for rental purposes.
Don't Put Your Renters or Your Rental Property at Risk
Don’t rely on your intuition when choosing tenants. You could end up with tenants who habitually fail to pay rent on time, have damaged rental properties in the past or criminals who might conduct unlawful activities on your premises.
A criminal background check is a useful resource in determining whether you have found the right tenants. Tenant screening services, such as RentSpree, collate all the relevant information you need in one place.