Have you ever had a horrible tenant who was constantly behind on rent and always had an excuse for breaking everything? It can be a real nightmare! So, as a landlord, finding a good tenant can be an absolute lifesaver.

The fact is — appearances can be deceiving. Any prospective tenant can look and act like an angel during the initial visit. But fast-forward a few months and calls from angry neighbors won’t let you rest at night.

Instant tenant screening services can help discern the good lessees from the bad.

What Exactly Are Tenant Screening Services?

Tenant screening services are consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) that offer background information on prospective tenants. This includes credit reports, bankruptcies, criminal history, employment verifications and eviction history.

In short, it gives you the kind of information you can’t get from an initial impression, thereby empowering you to make the right leasing decision.

What Every Landlord Should Learn from Tenant Screening

Tenant’s Credit Score

Here’s the deal — if you want a financially dependable tenant, you should make sure an applicant has a good credit score. A credit score won’t tell you all there is to know about a potential tenant, but it can tell you about the person’s probability for paying rent.

During the credit check, make sure you pay attention to credit history. Does this person have a habit of making late payments? Have any credit cards been maxed out? Taking in a tenant who loves to borrow but doesn’t like to pay can be an eviction waiting to happen.

Employment History and Income Verification

It’s pretty clear that tenants who don’t have a steady source of income won’t be able to pay rent on time. So, before you accept a new tenant, do your homework and ensure the person works where they say they work, and makes enough — or more than enough — money to pay the rent.

The best tenant screening services verify an applicant’s employment and income.

Background Check

Background checks are really important if you want peace of mind. Look out for the following when running a background check:

  • Criminal history: While it could be OK to overlook some acts of youthful indiscretion, a criminal record — especially a lengthy one — can be a red flag. That said, you might want to consider the nature of the crime. For instance, someone who committed a non-violent crime 30 years ago might not be much of a risk to the community now. So, if the applicant can provide reliable references and prove rehabilitation, then it might not be a bad idea to lease out your property to this person.
  • Lawsuits: This information is available in public records. Note if an applicant has been sued in the past (or is currently being sued) for not paying rent or damaging the landlord’s property.

Residence History

When interviewing a prospective tenant, find out why that person is looking for a new residence. If someone relocates because of a new job, that’s a good thing. However, someone who wants to move because he was quarreling with a previous landlord or not wanting to pay rent is probably going to have issues with you too. A good tenant screening service will help you complete this task with a detailed reporting of previous residencies, length of lease and whether an eviction was filed.

Now let’s take a look at the tenant screening services that are worth your time and money.

Tenant screening services can collect and analyze information on potential renters.

Best Tenant Screening Services

MyRental

If you don’t have a large budget but you still want comprehensive reporting, then MyRental might be your best bet. For just $19.99, it gives you access to a lot of information, including criminal history, eviction reports, sex offender search and credit reports.

RentPrep

If you’re a landlord who adores human input, then RentPrep will be a great fit. With plans starting at $18.95, RentPrep offers comprehensive background checks. But the best part is that they also provide certified agents — at no extra charge — who will help you make sense of the background information.

InstantBackgroundChecks.us

If you love things done quickly, then you’ll love Instant Background Check. With an a la carte menu starting at $19.95, they offer comprehensive credit reports within 24 hours. They also have live support staff that offers assistance every step of the way.

National Talent Network

Don’t have time to sift through multiple reports? National Talent Network has got you covered. This screening service generates a single report detailing the tenant’s history. But the best part is that they offer a recommendation score from 0 to 100 based on the tenant’s income, debt, eviction history and credit report.

Naborly

Don’t have any budget for tenant screening? No problem. Naborly offers a free basic plan with unlimited credit and criminal checks, identity, employment and income verification as well as a bankruptcy and lien search.

You can pay for a tenant screening service, but you can also find free resources on the web.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Tenant Screening Service

Pros

  • It’s convenient. Conducting a thorough tenant background check is a labor-intensive and multi-step process. The best tenant screening services can take this hassle off your hands.
  • It’s faster. A good tenant isn’t always willing to wait the days or weeks you need to conduct a background check. A tenant screening service can expedite this task, allowing you to get back to applications quickly with a decision.
  • It’s consistent. Every applicant is scrutinized in the exact same way, ensuring you stay in compliance with the Fair Housing Act.

Cons

  • Control is relinquished and you have to rely on someone else’s judgment
  • Great applicants can sometimes slip through the net due to imperfect records.

The Bottom Line

Screening every potential tenant is very important, but it doesn’t have to be a long and intensive process — all you need is a good tenant screening service. Just keep in mind that there’s more to a tenant than papers and numbers, so ultimately, trust your gut before making a final decision. You’ve got this.