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When it comes to vetting new tenants, it never hurts to be extra thorough with your evaluation. With a comprehensive tenant screening process, landlords can be confident that their next tenant is financially reliable and will take good care of their rental property.
With so many different screening tools available to landlords, it can be tough knowing which one is right for their rental needs. This article will serve as an essential guide for landlords navigating the complexities of tenant screening in the housing market and breaks down one of the more popular screening solutions provided by TransUnion.
The importance of tenant screening
Tenant screening is more than an extra step in the rental application process. It’s an essential piece that ensures landlords are generating the best possible outcome for their rental properties. It’s a way to protect landlords from bad actors, effectively fill housing vacancies, and contribute to a harmonious living environment for every tenant.
Without a proper screening process, landlords are relying on their gut instinct to make decisions about future tenants. And while gut instincts can prove handy in certain situations, it’s still no substitute for a proper credit report, criminal background check, and eviction related proceedings. This information provides landlords with the proof and resources needed to make an informed decision about every applicant.
Overview of TransUnion tenant screening
One tool many landlords use for their tenant screening process is TransUnion SmartMove. An online screening service for property owners and rental applicants, SmartMove simplifies the tenant screening process and delivers comprehensive reports in minutes. TransUnion SmartMove maintains compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and property owners only have access to an applicant’s credit and criminal record information for 30 days.
Understanding the TransUnion tenant screening process
In this section, we’ll dive into the TransUnion tenant screening process and emphasize the importance of comprehensive background checks for any landlord.
How TransUnion tenant screening works
Initiating the TransUnion screening process is simple and conducted entirely online. To get started, simply sign up for a free account and invite your applicant to apply using the email they’ve shared on the application. Select which reports you want to receive from the applicant as well as who pays the cost of the screening. Once your applicant completes the screening and approves the release of their credit and criminal record information, you’ll receive the reports you requested in minutes.
How long does a TransUnion tenant screening report take?
Completion time will vary depending on when the applicant confirms their application and completes the identity authentication process. Once this process is complete on the applicant’s side, however, TransUnion SmartMove delivers the screening reports you requested in a matter of minutes.
What’s included in a TransUnion SmartMove report?
TransUnion SmartMove includes several key pieces of information including a ResidentScore®, criminal background check, credit report, eviction related report, and an income insights report. Depending on which package you select, you can receive all or some of these reports.
As one of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion provides thorough credit checks that include information such as a ResidentScore®, social security number verification, credit history, and previous employment data. Another benefit of SmartMove is the income insights report, which uses TransUnion’s proprietary model to verify a prospective tenant’s self-reported income on their application.
One feature that’s unique to TransUnion SmartMove is their ResidentScore®, which is designed to more effectively predict evictions compared to a traditional credit score. Similar to a credit score, the ResidentScore® is built on a range from 350-850 and factors in payment history, credit utilization, credit history, credit availability, and inquiries. Unlike a credit score, this proprietary renter credit score was specifically created for rental screening and to identify the likelihood of evictions.
Interpreting the TransUnion tenant screening report
With so much information provided on the SmartMove report, it can be difficult knowing where to start or how to interpret some of the data. Below, we’ll explore the benefits of interpreting TransUnion tenant screening reports, focusing on the credit reports and criminal records insights.
Understanding credit reports
TransUnion delivers credit insights in an easy-to-read format and, because it results in a soft inquiry on an applicant’s credit history, has no effect on an individual’s credit score. These credit reports review an individual’s credit history and help landlords better understand an applicant’s income and payment history.
With the information provided on credit reports, landlords can better assess an applicant’s financial responsibility and ability to pay rent on time. For example: applicants with a credit score in the 740+ range are more likely to be financially secure compared to someone with a score below 600. Similarly, reviewing payment history can give landlords a sense of whether or not an applicant can be trusted to make their rent on time every month.
Evaluating criminal background checks
When it comes to protecting your rental property and ensuring the safety of all tenants, few things are more important than digging into an applicant’s criminal records. To paint the full picture of every applicant, TransUnion SmartMove checks millions of criminal records including the FBI’s Most Wanted, sex offender public registries, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
These background checks are designed to uncover any criminal records and help landlords make better decisions about who they ultimately decide to rent to. With these reports, landlords can avoid approving tenants who may be a potential risk, identify applicants with a history of property damage, and minimize financial risks.
It’s important to recognize that there are instances in which landlords may not reject an applicant due to their criminal records. Federal and state laws prevent discrimination in rental applications, and landlords should take the time to learn which laws are relevant to them. For example: California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) states it’s unlawful for housing providers to enact a blanket ban on renting to anyone with a criminal record and may not take into account certain types of criminal history information.
Reviewing previous rental experiences
Another significant piece of information all landlords should review is a tenant’s previous rental history and eviction checks. In compliance with the FCRA, TransUnion SmartMove checks eviction databases to pull data on an applicant’s judgment for possession and money, unlawful detainers, and any judgments for small claims.
With an applicant’s rental history in hand, landlords can evaluate how trustworthy they are and whether there are legitimate concerns about their behavior as a tenant. Remember, the information provided in any eviction report must comply with the FCRA in order for it to be considered when evaluating rental applicants.
Limitations of the TransUnion SmartMove report
Even the most trusted names in tenant screening aren’t 100% free of error and it’s in every landlord’s best interest to carefully review the information included in these reports. Additionally, because TransUnion SmartMove relies on the applicant to initiate the process for the report to be completed, any holdups on the applicant’s side can delay or even cancel the screening process.
Possible report errors
One of the best parts of TransUnion SmartMove is the speed at which reports are delivered to you. At the same time, because these reports are delivered almost instantly, it can leave the door open for inaccurate data or report errors. If you receive a complaint from an applicant about errors appearing on their credit or criminal records, you may need to run additional screening or use another third-party tool to get the complete, accurate picture of a prospective tenant.
Because TransUnion SmartMove is initiated by the rental applicant, it relies on applicants giving TransUnion permission to run reports in order to complete the screening process. If an applicant expresses privacy concerns about what information is shared with a landlord, they may choose not to move forward with the application. Should an applicant decline a SmartMove request for permission to release their credit and criminal records, the application will be canceled and no parties will be charged.
Finding the right tenant screening solution for you
The TransUnion SmartMove report provides landlords with an extensive look at every applicant, from their credit and payment timeline to their criminal records to their rental history. With its easy-to-read dashboard and instant delivery method, SmartMove is a robust tool for landlords in need of an affordable, comprehensive screening solution.
When it comes to screening rental tenants, there are a number of affordable options available to landlords. Which one is the right one for you will largely depend on your specific business needs, the cost of generating the reports, as well as what kinds of information you’re looking to pull from prospective tenants.