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How do you check he credit worthness of a renter?

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January 03 2011 - Kennesaw
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I have tried many tenant screening data providers, but the most comprehensive service I have found to provide both background checks and full credit history with FICO scores is a company called Private Eye Reports online at http://tenantscreeningbackgroundcheck.com

All of the data is nationwide & its extremely current and covers all court judgments, evictions, bankruptcy filings, IRS tax liens, foreclosures, criminal history, employment, corporate or company affiliations, etc. When there are evictions and judgments found, they show you the creditor or landlord, court case number, jurisdiction, judgment amount, and name of creditor. I like the fact that they give you all of the current and past addresses (including other household members).  It even lists DMV records and all of the past real estate owned, purchase dates, lender, mortgage amount, and dates. 

The order process is very quick and simple and the results come back quickly.  Also, they give you a free background check on the spouse or the partner.  I don't think you will be find anyone out there that does a better job providing thorough data that goes back as far as 30 years.
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June 27
Profile picture for nyapt0
BEWARE, TRANSUNION SMARTMOVE IS RUBBISH.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50140748n

d440 million mistakes; ·         20 million significant mistakes


onto the criminal background process.  you now realize  the credit reporting system is broken take a look a at the criminal background investigation.  let's use transunion dumbmove, i'm sorry, forgive me, i mean smartmove.  a so called simple, reliable, safe, credit/background check process for landlords and tenants.  the only thing anyone is getting is a relatively quick and easy non solution.

TU will ask you (the landlord) to provide the renters name email and phone number.  you set up your account.  that will prompt an email to the renter to set up his account.  you have done little more than initiate the permission (CYA) process.

you (the renter) create your account and have request of you your social security number (SS#), your date of birth and your (the tenant) name and your permission and consent to the check releasing TU of liability.  then it will run that name, with if provided, or more likely without a middle name or initial, + date of birth (DoB).  but this DoB does not run your real DoB it either runs your age or your birth year.  the conclusion?  a result including anyone having your name and same age or birth year as a potential "hit".  what?  you ask?  where's the reliability and validity in that?  the answer?  there is none. 

what you (the landlord) are NOT told is that you have to STILL do the homework and get to the bottom of a spool of guilty party name(s) who may but are likely not your applicant, in whatever fashion you deem necessary.  you could have done this with a simple internet search of name + DoB + state + arrest records.  the search database that TU uses does not give you any better result as you could on your own--FOR FREE!  and nothing a savvy landlord or assistant shouldn't be already taking the time to do anyway.

for example.  name + age or birth year results in a hit of a first name last name aged XX with an arrest record in XX state for grand theft auto and fraudulent check writing comes to your attention.  no match against an SS#, a real DoB, a DL#.  nothing.  you better be d@mn sure this is the person who submitted before you let your potential renter know he or she has a criminal record that he or she needs to clean up or get fixed.  this record doesn't even BELONG to your potential renter.  and there goes your 3 or 4 figure monthly rent right out the door.  and possibly, if you really pissed off and insulted your applicant, a lawsuit or lessor but still irritating a magistrate or bbb complaint.  

remember, websites for online products are not in business to provide service, they are in business to make money.  and sales and product managers will make sure they make it what whatever way they can.  especially when you start looking at credit reporting bureaus, agencies whatever, even with the newly filed complaints against the BBB ratings raquet a supposed non profit where high level leaders are making in upwards of $250,000 dollars.  don't believe me?  take a look for yourself. http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/business-bureau-best-ratings-money-buy/story?id=12123843

what is that saying Caveat emptor  let the buyer beware?  it doesn't only apply to you as renter proviso but a service proviso.  be sure as a TU dumbmove, sorry, smartmove customer you know what you and your potential customer are getting for the money.  do you really need scads of (possibly inaacuarate and if so, not necessarily a predictor of rent payment reliability) credit history or a autopayment or bank ledger of past paid rents.


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October 08 2013
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Transunion Smartmove does not work! It's horrible! The response to my questions about how to get it to work does not make sense. The voice mail at their phone number is full, can't leave a message, but I only found that out after going through four different menu options. If I hear them spell Transunion Smartmove one more time I'll scream. Stay away!
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April 24 2013
Profile picture for user60448593
I used transunion smartmove for  the first time for perspective tenants, they were charged 30$ ea and I never recceived the report and ended up exploring the tenants background myself and refunded the 60$ , I will NEVER use smartmovers again, waste of money
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February 23 2013
Profile picture for JitkaSykora
[website removed by Zillow moderator] is a web-based application for small landlords like you. You create an account with your property information and email your renter a rental application with a background check request. Your applicant runs and pays for the background check but you receive the results.

When you approve the tenant, it creates a lease document already filled with your tenant's data and it's ready for e-signatures.
It saves ton of time and it's very reasonable.
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August 12 2011
You need to be able to run a credit report (your local investor group may have a way for you to sign with with a credit reporting service), or hire a
Realtor that is a property manager so they can run it for you.  If the
prospective tenant gives you a former landlord to check with make sure
that person actually owns the home they lived in.  You can do that by
checking the tax records for that county.  I have seen cases where the
name and phone given for the reference was a buddy not the real
landlord.  If you cannot run a credit report and don't want to hire a
professional then at least make them show you a few credit cards to
prove they have been able to get credit elsewhere.  If they don't use credit
cards they are probably not a good credit risk from my experience.
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August 03 2011
Profile picture for Netizen
Although I agree that lying about former tenants is not the best policy in an ideal world, I would imagine that tenants from hell, when finally extricated from a dwelling, are like warts that go away... unless you scratch them. In other words, a landlord may fear a litigious former tenant (removed by Zillow Moderator), or may fear a psychotic former tenant that will exact revenge on a former landlord.

Also, tenants can hire a private investigator to call a former landlord and pose as a prospective landlord seeking references, and if properly verified may be admissible in a court of law. It's not the "good" ones to worry about, but the "bad" apples who are precisely the ones you hope to screen out.

Interviewing a former landlord is like interrogating someone who may be of interest to a crime. Listen for halting tones, hesitation or awkward moments of silence, nervous voice, or haste to get off the phone to avoid questions.

We may not like Vince's admission but if there was no candid admission, perhaps a deeper problem would not be revealed as possibly festering under the surface, waiting to rear its ugly head. Chris from Phoenix has the right sentiments; honesty is the best policy. Those willing to bear the possible brunt of steadfast honesty to the letter are commendable and their possible eventual sacrifices to unscrupulous litigious (perhaps psychotic) former tenants are a choice they're willingly made to uphold their impeccable standards. Vince sounds like a more pragmatic "survivor" type who doesn't want to step into a gaping hole in the ground because he is too fixated on upholding perceived standards of ethics, sort of a realist who just wants to perform as a landlord in a sadly corrupt world. That's my take.
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August 02 2011
Vince you said, "RE: Calling the old landlord - IMHO in my experience, that never works. Landlords (and I include me in that) lie or dont tell the entire truth,"

I have to ask, why, as a landlord, would you lie to a prospective landlord enquiring about a crappy tenant? We have a policy of telling the whole truth to protect other landlords, I would expect other landlords to do the same.

We  don't often get calls from prospective landlords on our worst tenants. I expect they are either lying to their new landlord or finding one who's dumb enough not to do a background check. Because if the prospective landlord called us, they'd hear the WHOLE truth.
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August 02 2011
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Thanks for the headsup Vince and csantillo. SmartMove looks like a pretty good service. There is more information on their website here.
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July 26 2011
Profile picture for csantillo
Thanks, Vince Curtis, for point me to TransUnion SmartMove. It was really easy (and relatively cheap) to ask my applicants to submit their information for a credit and background check.
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July 26 2011
Your realtor will always begin with the standard application. This will have room for the potential renters SSN, current landlord contact info, and job info. Then you would run credit, verify employment, and contact their current landlord to make sure everything is on the up and up. If the credit is really bad ask for an explanation and perhaps an increased security deposit. It is much easier to get a bad renter into a property than out of one.
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July 19 2011
Besides doing  credit report, which I usually have done through a mortgage company, I try to visit the house in which they live to see if they keep the place in good condition. Checking references is very important as well.
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July 16 2011
I use a mortgage company
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July 16 2011
Use TransUnion SmartMove - its the best. $30 is paid by tenant (or landlord) and you, as the landlord, never see the SS# or private account numbers of the tenants - this limits your liability if a mad, rejected applicant accuses you of stealing their SS# and/or other private info.

$30 pays for criminal check and full credit report. The only downside is if your tenants appliacants are not 'email' friendly, it can be a problem. A tenant needs a email to apply.

I just used it to rent a SFR this week, and you learn quickly WHO is serious and who is not. If an applicant is not willing to pay the $30, either they are not serious for your property OR their credit is bad.

This service also guards against tenants just handing you a credit report which MAY or MAY NOT be accurate and authentic. I started using SmartMove after I received a few photshoped credite reports from applicants that just looked too good to be true.

I learned about SmartMove from Jeff, on this forum listed below.

AFTER this, yes, you can do some of the things the others suggest, ie visit the applicants current home and/or business, check references, etc.

RE: Calling the old landlord - IMHO in my experience, that never works. Landlords (and I include me in that) lie or dont tell the entire truth, and most tenants WONT give you their current landlord in fear of being evicted or having their rents raised. It usually just does not work out well for anyone....





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July 15 2011
Profile picture for Netizen
May I add to the excellent advice that you must PERFORM A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK. If you allow s*x offenders to rent in your neighborhood you will destroy the value of your home and neighbors homes when potential buyers check databases for locations of known offenders. That's just for starters!

Check out the excellent movie DVD "Pacific Heights" (1990; starring Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine and Michael Keaton) for a realistic scenario about what can go wrong when you don't do everything advised in this thread on top of performing a criminal background check. (This movie is not for kids of the faint of heart, although landlords with faint hearts may not be in the right business.)
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July 15 2011
I use a mortgage company and run there credit
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July 14 2011
It's more than credit worthiness you need to check for in a potential tenant. As a landlord, myself, in California and Nevada, I do the following:

1. Have applicant fill out the rental application in its entirety.

2. I call and/or email to verify their employment for the past 5 years

3. I call and/or email their last 2 landlords

4. I check with the county website that the landlords stated in fact owns the property. Many tenants conive with friends to pretend to be the landlord. I also ask for two past utility statement showing their name and address of their prior rentals. These strategies will make the tenant think twice about lying.

5. I run their credit as a condition for acceptance as my tenant

6. I read the entire lease contract to the tenant

Should you have any specific questions about my comment, feel free to contact me. Click my photo for my contact details. Thank you.
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February 11 2011
You will need to review their credit report and specifically look for late or missed payments.  In addition to this, you'll want to verify employment and rental history.  Always ask if they were ever late with their rent.   You may also want to verify their income by looking at recent paystubs.  If they seem like they'd be a good tenant but don't have great credit, you may want to consider a co-signor with good credit.
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February 05 2011
Profile picture for Netizen
Anyone having doubts about taking the draconian screening measures in these replies, needs some shock therapy in the form of the classic Hollywood thriller "Pacific Heights" (1992; stars: Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine and Michael Keaton). It's on Netflix or in most video stores.

The movie's synopsis says it all: "A couple works hard to renovate their dream house and become landlords to pay for it. Unfortunately one of their tenants has plans of his own."

I guarantee you will be cured of any misgivings about going "too far" in screening potential tenants after viewing this shocking and riveting Hollywood classic. (Michael Keaton gives a truly amazing rendition of the tenant from hell, and the movie is definitely NOT for kids.)

Even if you get nightmares immediately after seeing this movie -- especially if you're a landlord -- those nightmares will reap rich lifelong dividends in avoidance of people who could ruin you financially. After seeing this film the first time, the most disturbing part was realizing that I didn't know diddly squat about being a landlord.
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January 06 2011
Profile picture for sunnyview
Credit checks are important, but I think that Netizen has it nailed. Calling old landlords is a must and checking all references is all a must. Asking atypical questions like is their unit clean, do you like their friends, would you let them live with you etc. can shake the truth out of shaky references.

Old landlords may lie to get rid of a bad tenant so asking about how much of their security deposit they got back along with other things can help you do effective screening.

It is always surprising how many landlords do not even check references. All I can say is that when you check references it is important to listen to your gut and listen to what the references do not say. 
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January 06 2011
Profile picture for Netizen
In addition to checking their eviction rate and criminal background, ask them to sign a form which contains fields for their last three landlords, giving you permission to contact these people. Other than having a real estate attorney help refine this form, one thing they agree to by signing is NOT to hold you or the landlords on this form liable in any way for derrogatory information obtained. State clearly on the form you intend to fax each landlord the form in order to get each landlord's candid opinion of the renter.

Then make sure these landlords are in fact landlords by doing a background check on them! (Otherwise, you may contact three of their most loyal friends or associates.)

It is amazing what information you can obtain from a landlord who may be itching to "get even" with a tenant who trashed the place, or a landlord who would be honored to reward an exemplary tenant by giving them glowing praise -- provided you determine that glowing report is coming from their real former landlord(s).
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January 06 2011
Additional thoughts:  don't just call a past landlord of theirs... that could be an old friend.  I'd agree that the credit score isn't the most important ingredient for a renter but definitely get copies of their most recent pay stubs and a copy of their recent utility bills showing that they are paid up and in good standing.  Make sure their income is in line with the property they are renting.  
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January 06 2011
I used to run a credit background check and eviction report from a company called Resident Data...they merged with Lexis Nexis and may have changed their name...but still offer the same great service.  You can still go to ResidentData.com and be redirected to their new site.

If you're running a growing operation, that's a good resource to have.  If you're just running a background check one or two times for a single property, there are any number of providers that do a check.  You'll get varying degrees of reliability on the criminal record and on the rental history portion.

Keep in mind that you must abide by Federal laws concerning handling and security of the social security numbers and other personal information.  Keep it secure even from your family.  I would recommend not downloading the credit report...view it online, and if you do want to keep a copy, then password the file or the file folder.
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January 04 2011
That's a lot of good advice Carl!
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January 03 2011
I have owned up to 16 single family rentals in the recent past so speak from experience.  Don't just run a credit check, but a "credit/eviction" report.  Many people in this day and age have horrible credit, but can be very good tenants.  However, if they've ever been evicted, I'd steer clear.  Another CRITICAL report to run is a criminal background check.  In Colorado, you can go to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations website and run a background report for $6.  You'll need the applicant's full name, social, DOB, and current address.  It's also important to have a verification of employment so you can verify they have the income to pay.  Folks could have lost their job and their home and have the lowest credit possible, but if they now have a new job, making good money, you might consider renting to them (interview them first).  There are firms you can find online that will run credit/eviction reports for a nominal fee. 
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January 03 2011
You can have them sign release allowing you to run their credit, usually costs around $25 and you can have the prosepctive tenant pay the fee

Aaron Horn "The Real Estate Guy"
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January 03 2011
 
Related Questions
How do you check he credit worthness of a renter?
Profile picture for Jessie  Getts
Latest answer by Jessie Getts
June 27 | 26 answers
  • Asked by jxcamp123
  • In Landlords
  • January 03 2011
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