Tenant Management, Tenant Screening

The Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords

wallet full of credit cards

UPDATED DECEMBER 2020: Reviewing screening reports for each applicant is one of several important tools landlords and property managers have in deciding who to accept as tenants.  (Checking references is another, which we’ve written about here.) In this article we’re evaluating online property management products to help landlords choose the best tenant screening service for their needs.

We considered the following five factors in scoring each service:

  1. Credit data and scoring
  2. Criminal background records
  3. Identity, employment, and address history
  4. Evictions and judgements
  5. Costs, and who pays
  6. Extra Credit: Flexibility

Which Property Management Software Offers the Best Tenant Screening Service

Best Overall Screening Service – total score: 48.5/50
Best Free Screening Servicetotal score: 48/50
Best Screening with Full Property Management Features – total score: 48/50avail property management software logo
Click here to view complete scores

Our Contenders:

  • Advertise your property, find and screen tenants, sign leases, collect rent, and e-sign custom local leases, with tools built specifically for DIY landlords.
  • Strength: Complete Solution
  • End-to-end property management solution. Receive payments online, advertise properties and screen potential tenants. Robust accounting and maintenance features.
  • Strength: Complete Solution
  • Clear & comprehensive reports including TransUnion credit records, criminal and eviction history, sex offender search, and terrorist watch list results. All for $30, paid by the tenant.
  • Strength: Tenant Screening
  • RentRedi is an all-inclusive landlord-tenant app. Manage vacancies, screening, and rent collection from wherever you are, on any device.
  • Strength: Complete Solution
  • ClearNow is a leader in online rent payment, serving landlords and property managers of all sizes since 2000.
  • Strength: Rent Collection
  • Designed to address the needs of DIY landlords as well as property management companies, Rentec Direct includes all the tools necessary to manage and rent your properties
  • Strength: Complete Solution
  • Whether you manage five doors or five thousand, Buildium provides a simple but sophisticated property management platform to help you grow and improve your business.
  • Strength: Complete Solution
  • Property management software including online rent collection, expense tracking and ledgers, communications with renters, photo and document storage, and more.
  • Strength: Complete Solution
  • An industry leader in tenant screening, RentPrep offers a selection of reports starting at $18.95. Get started by setting up your free RentPrep Account.
  • Strength: Tenant Screening
  • Tenant screening solution perfect for independent landlords. Screen tenants, market your vacancies, and take applications for free.
  • Strength: Tenant Screening
  • Accounting and property management tools to save time and money while managing your rentals. Track income and expenses, screen tenants, collect rent, and more.
  • Strength: Accounting and Financial Tracking

Evaluation Criteria: Scoring the best tenant screening services

We graded each of the software providers on 5 key tenant screening factors, on a 10 point scale, plus a bonus feature. Read on for more details on the best tenant screening services, here’s how they stack up:

SoftwareAvailScreen
Renters
Tenant
Cloud
RentRediSpark
Rental
Rentec
Direct
Clear
Now
BuildiumRent
Prep
Apply
Connect
Landlord Studio
Credit and
Financial
9.599.59.58.588.58109.58.5
Criminal
Background
9999988.58.59108
Identity9999.587.5998.59.58.5
Evictions9.59998.58108.59.598.5
Costs91010887.59.57.59.5109
Bonus: Flexibility+2+1+2+2+1+2
TOTAL (out of 50)484647.547444045.541.548.54842.5

Credit data and scoring

Our scoring of the best tenant screening service for financial background reporting was based on the following criteria:

  1. Thorough credit information, including a summary of debt and detailed payment history. All companies offered reports that filled this requirement.  We prefer more detail when we can get it, as-opposed to having a service tell us “accept/deny”.
  2. Flexibility to access only information you deem important.  Some landlords prefer to base their decisions on certain factors and we believe choice is an advantage. 
  3. Value-add analysis, such as the SmartMove “ResidentScore” and “Income Insights”.
  4. Ability to access reports without requiring the landlord to go through a site inspection or vetting process.
  5. Records of any judgments and liens.
  6. Percentage of populace scored.
  7. Simplicity

All of the products we’re ranking use either Experian or TransUnion to pull credit and background information on rental applicants.  Reports from the two sources have many similarities, typically including the following:

  • debt summary 
  • payment history
  • bankruptcies 
  • accounts that have gone to collection
  • tax liens
  • civil judgments
  • Social Security number verification
  • name verification and alias history
  • past addresses
  • past and current employers (though these never often don’t seem comprehensive)
  • credit score on a scale from 300-850 points.  TransUnion gives applicants a “FICO” score, while Experian gives a “Vantage 3.0” score
  • national criminal background check, including results from the sex offender registry and the terrorist (OFAC) watch list
  • nationwide eviction search

TransUnion Credit Reports:

TransUnion tailors their “SmartMove” to the needs of landlords and property managers.   In addition to the full Tenant Credit Report, including a FICO score, they offer a “ResidentScore”.  ResidentScore evaluates applicants on factors TransUnion believes to be most relevant to landlords as they choose new tenants.  The formula for computing this score is not divulged, however evictions, lease “skips”, and late rent payments seem to be factored-in.  It appears that certain types of debt and payment behavior are deemed to more-accurately predict reliable rent payment. It looks like recent late or missed payments on auto loans or phone bills are factored in as more worrisome than problematic student loan history, for example.  A SmartMove feature offered by ClearNow is the “Income Insights” report. By analyzing an applicant’s spending, payment, and balance history, the Income Insights report suggests whether the claimed income level is plausible or needs further verification.

Experian Credit Reports:

Experian credit and background reports thoroughly cover the range of information listed above, but seem not to offer landlord-specific products in the way TransUnion does.  All the Experian screening products we review give a Vantage 3.0 instead of the FICO score.  A significant difference between these two, pointed-out by Apply Connect, is the fact that up to 30 million more people can be scored using the Vantage model. The Vantage accomplished this by considering current economic conditions, and also delivering a score fewer overall records. This allows credit ratings for younger applicants and others who may have short or limited credit history. Another advantage 

Also Read: The Best Online Rent Payment Service For Small Landlords

Our competitors differ on whether they claim to include information on judgments and liens.  RentPrep offers a specific report on judgments and liens and states that their results include information excluded from typical credit reports since 2017.  SparkRental and Apply Connect use Experian reports and do state that judgments and liens are included.

Another factor to consider when it comes to credit information is who orders and who pays for reports.  Because the information is so sensitive and private, laws dictate that any entity that orders detailed credit reports must go through a vetting process – usually involving a site inspection and identity verification, and sometimes documentation of property ownership.  When ordered by an applicant this step is not necessary.

Avail – score 9.5/10: Avail uses TransUnion to provide full, detailed credit reports. At a glance landlords can see a green/yellow/red rating, FICO credit score, and total of all recorded debts. For those that wish to dig into the details of payment history, collections, and account particulars, that information is included as well.

TenantCloud – score 9.5/10: TenantCloud also uses TransUnion to provide comprehensive credit reporting. At this time there is only one report available, the “Full Check Report”, which includes criminal, address, employment, and eviction records in addition to detailed credit history. TransUnion’s “Resident Score”, designed to predict a tenant’s financial reliability, is included.

Screen Renters – score 9/10: Screen Renters credit report starts with a nice summary of accounts, credit limits, payment history, balances, and current payment burdens. As with several other products, Screen Renters reporting is powered by TransUnion.

RentRedi – score 9.5/10: RentRedi generates a Resident Score and “Custom Leasing Recommendation”, value-added features based on TransUnion data. This is in addition to thorough financial records on debt, payments, etc. RendRedi’s mobile app makes running and reviewing reports particularly handy for both landlords and tenants.

SparkRental – score 8.5/10:  SparkRental provides a full Experian credit report including Vantage 3.0 score, a debt summary, payment history, and records of any bankruptcies or judgments against an applicant.

Rentec Direct – score 8/10:  A full TransUnion Credit report with FICO score is available with the Premium Screening Package.  This report includes a debt summary, payment history, and any bankruptcy records.

ClearNow – score 8.5/10: ClearNow focuses only on tenant screening and rent collection, and also uses TransUnion’s SmartMove products to provide credit and background reports, as well as a ResidentScore.  A feature unique to ClearNow is the “Income Insights” report, also from SmartMove.  By analyzing an applicant’s spending, payment, and balance history, the Income Insights report suggests whether the claimed income level is plausible or needs further verification.

Buildium – score 8/10:  Two levels of reports are available – “Basic” and “Premium”.  Like ClearNow and Rentec Direct, Buildium uses TransUnion’s SmartMove product to deliver their Basic report.  This report includes a full credit report (see above).  TransUnion’s “exclusive rental recommendation” is also provided.  We assume this is similar-to or the same as the ResidentScore offered by ClearNow – ie, some crunching of numbers that delivers a judgment about whether an applicant will be a good tenant.  Landlords can run the Premium Tenant Screening on applicants without having to document their approval, once they’ve gone through a vetting process.  The information delivered in a Premium report is similar to that in a Basic report except that it’s possible to set property-specific criteria for the “rental recommendation” feature. 

RentPrep – score 10/10:  RentPrep also does tenant screening exclusively, offering two forms of credit report. Their proprietary Credit Decision Report allows landlords to set a FICO threshold for applicant acceptance. If a threshold of 600 is set, for example, anyone below that score would back as “denied”. This is a “red light/green light” approach, where no credit detail or specific FICO score is provided.  The second report uses comes via TransUnion’s SmartMove.  This is a full credit check.  A feature unique to RentPrep is their report detailing judgments and liens, which is included as part of their proprietary Background Check. This product is also available as an add-on ($4.95) to the Full Credit Report. According to RentPrep this information has been eliminated from credit reports since 2017 and consequently is not included with screening reports from competitors.

Apply Connect – score 9.5/10:  Apply Connect ONLY does tenant screening, and uses Experian to provide a full credit report, including a “Vantage 3.0” score.  Apply Connect states that the Experian report includes civil judgments and liens.

Landlord Studio – score 8.5/10: Landlord Studio sources screening reports through TransUnion SmartMove. We like that account balances, credit limits, and payment history is all included. There are few bells and whistles, but the data is all there.


Criminal background records

The thought of accepting tenants who will engage in criminal activity is enough to strike panic in the heart of most landlords, and it’s natural to want a report that assures us that this applicant is NOT a criminal before we proceed.  Many landlords are motivated to find the best tenant screening service based just so they can check criminal background. There are, however, a few factors to consider. 

First, not all reports search exactly the same records or are equally thorough.  Whether city or county records are effectively searched is difficult to determine.  One factor appears to be that some states do not deliver instant results to criminal records inquiries.  We note, for example, that TransUnion reports typically do not include all 50 states. We’ve seen claims of anywhere from 43-46 states.  Some services state that they’ll tell you whether an applicant appears on the Terrorist Watch List (OFAC) or in the Most Wanted Database, while others do not. “Nationwide Criminal Search” can means different things.  We suspect there is much overlap between competitor’s offerings.

Also Read: Navigating New Rental Laws Using Property Management Software

Rules around the use of criminal records when considering a rental applicant are also changing quickly. Cities such as Seattle and Oakland have passed legislation making it illegal to consider criminal background when evaluating a potential tenant.  We highly recommend consulting a lawyer or local rental association for guidance on using this type of information.

In ranking the best online tenant screening service for criminal background reporting, we considered the following factors:

  1. Will reports cover all states?
  2. Does the report include local court records?
  3. Are national registries (terrorism, sex-offender, most wanted, etc) searched?
  4. Is jail, arrest, and warrant information included?
  5. Is it possible to customize the type of information returned?

Avail – score 9/10: Our only quibble with Avail’s reporting on criminal and legal records is that it is not possible to elect NOT to receive this portion of the background report. It probably sounds strange to most landlords, but in a growing number of places (here in Seattle, for example) it is illegal to factor-in criminal records when choosing tenants.

TenantCloud – score 9/10: Full national, state, and “Most Wanted” criminal records are delivered instantly. TenantCloud’s background report also searches the Sex Offender Registry and Global Terrorist OFAC list. Criminal records are included with each background check, and cannot be declined.

Screen Renters – score 9/10: Background reports include national and local criminal records in addition to Sex Offender Register and Global Terrorism watch searches. Criminal records are included with each background check, and cannot be declined.

RentRedi – score 8.5/10: A nice feature RentRedi offers is a 10-question pre-sceening survey, which helps weed out applicants who don’t qualify on basic criteria. Background checks include “Full Criminal Reporting”, however the specific data compiled isn’t detailed in their marketing material.

SparkRental – score 9/10: National, State, and local criminal records are searched so that a landlord has thorough knowledge of any criminal background an applicant might have.  Sex offender records are included.

Rentec Direct – score 8/10:  All screening packages include nationwide criminal and sex offender records. Inmate records are also provided.

ClearNow – score 8.5/10: SmartMove reporting claims 43-state criminal background checks, and searches of the Most Wanted Database and National Sex-Offender Registry.  It is unclear whether local records are searched, however ClearNow claims to search 370 million records.

Buildium – score 8.5/10:  Because Buildium uses TransUnion’s SmartMove service, we anticipate that criminal reporting will be thorough and nationally comprehensive.

RentPrep – score 9/10: Their proprietary Tenant Background Check does not include a criminal background check, however a 50-state search is available for an additional charge of $4.  The SmartMove Full Credit Report does include a “Nationwide Criminal & Sex Offender Search”, covering 44 states.  Not covered are DE, CO, MA, WY, NC, and SC. 

Apply Connect – score 10/10:  Criminal searches covering “local courts” from all 50 states plus Washington DC, as well as the National Sex-Offender Registry.   Jail and prison records, warrants & arrests, and the terrorist (OFAC) watch list are included.

Landlord Studio – score 8/10: Reports include results from Most Wanted & Sex Offender lists. As with other providers that use TransUnion SmartMove, 44 states and 370 million criminal records are searched.


Identity, employment, and address history

When meeting prospective tenants we have only the basic information they’re giving us about who they are and what their history is.  Screening reports help verify this information and add some context.  It’s important to know whether an applicant has lived and worked where they have claimed to.  Confirming that the Social Security Number (SSN) they’ve provided is connected to addresses and employers – and that it shows the same birth date as the applicant has – goes a long way to verifying the identity of the person being screened.  Note: It is imperative to make an in-person verification of identity.  ALWAYS ask for a valid government-issued ID that shows that the person and the data you’re reviewing match-up.

Also Read: Choosing the best questions to ask rental references

When evaluating the best tenant screening service to provide identity, employment, and address information we considered the following questions:

  1. Are aliases included?
  2. Is employment history included?
  3. Is there value-add analysis (such as SmartMove’s “Income Insights” report).

Avail – score 9/10: Social Security Number verification, employment history, and past addresses are all included in Avail’s “Full Screening” report.

TenantCloud – score 9/10: TenantCloud draws on TransUnion to provide SSN verification as well as residence and employment history.

Screen Renters – score 9/10: Screen Renters delivers identity verification and address records but makes no mention of employer history. We suspect, however, that this information is also included.

RentRedi – score 9.5/10: In addition to the other important information in this category we like the way RentRedi asks applicants screening questions up front. We believe this helps landlords to start developing a profile of who they’re dealing with right from the beginning.

SparkRental – score 8/10:  SparkRental offers a “Rental History & ID Trace” report, which provides “current & past addresses, all known aliases, and SSN (Social Security Number) verification”.  It is unclear whether this report includes employment information.

Rentec Direct – score 7.5/10:  The “Basic” package includes SSN and prior address verification, while the middle-tier “Enhanced” report package adds nationwide eviction records.  As far as we can see, no employment history is listed.

ClearNow – score 9/10: TransUnion is one of the three main credit rating bureaus in the nation, meaning it’s their business to collect identity, employment, and address information to go along with debt and payment data.  ClearNow offers reports via TransUnion’s SmartMove product – designed for landlords – which present all this information clearly in one place.

Buildium – score 9/10:  While Buildium delivers TransUnion results, they make no mention of any feature similar to the “Income Insights” report included in ClearNow reports.   They do provide SSN verification along with employment and address history.

RentPrep – score 8.5/10:  Both available reports deliver address history and SSN verification.  The SmartMove report includes available employment history, while the RentPrep Tenant Background Check does not.

Apply Connect – score 9.5/10: SSN verification, past names, past addresses, and employment history are included.

Landlord Studio – score 8.5/10: As we’ve said under a few other categories, Landlord Studion gives you good simple information. Their sample report does not explicitly show SSN verification or aliases.


Evictions and judgments

Many landlords see a record of prior evictions as the most relevant predictor of whether an applicant will violate the terms of a lease, or skip-out entirely.

Also Read: Rental Criteria Checklist for Screening Tenants

With all these services it is difficult to determine whether late payments reported could be for rent, or are limited to traditional credit-reporting debt types such as auto, credit card, education, and mortgage loans.  We believe that rent payment records are likely to be incomplete as many landlords – especially owners of small portfolios – do not report late rent payments to the credit bureaus.

In choosing the best tenant screening service to provide information on evictions, we asked:

  1. Are court judgments included?
  2. Are records of a tenant’s failure to pay included?
  3. Does the report provide data on writs of eviction and warrants?

Avail – score 9.5/10: Avail provides failure-to-pay and eviction records, as well as any prior judgements against an applicant.

TenantCloud – score 9/10: TenantCloud does a national eviction search, and notes that some reports that include county eviction inquiries can take a few days. This suggests that more in-depth results are ultimately provided.

Screen Renters – score 9/10: The report includes a summary of any evictions, as well as a details on the location, dates, and amounts unpaid.

RentRedi – score 9/10: One of the nice features about RentRedi is that it makes bringing a guarantor onboard easy, even asking for guarantor income in up-front screening questions that are built the mobile-friendly application process.

SparkRental – score 8.5/10:  Consistent with SparkRental’s a-la-carte approach to screening reports, they offer a stand-alone “Nationwide Eviction Report” showing any history an applicant may have of breaching leases leading to eviction.

Rentec Direct – score 8/10:  Both the “Enhanced” and “Premium” screening packages include a nationwide eviction search, while the “Basic” level does not.

ClearNow – score 10/10: As we’ve mentioned, ClearNow has created a portal to access TransUnion’s “SmartMove” landlord tools.  TransUnion leverages its’ huge database and access to public court records to offer landlords data on evictions, judgments, unlawful detainers, and failure to pay rent.  SmartMove claims to be able to tell landlords whether an applicant is a “late payer” or has skipped out on leases.  

Buildium – score 8.5/10:  Reports include eviction history but do not claim to provide information on late rent payments, unlawful detainers, and judgments in the way ClearNow does.  We believe Buildium offers similar information but does not use as much descriptive detail in their marketing materials.

RentPrep – score 9.5/10: Both products offered include eviction records.  Their in-house offering includes data on eviction orders that have not ultimately finalized. RentPrep claims to be unique in providing data on judgments and liens.  They include this information in their own Tenant Background Check, and offer it as an-add on ($4.95) with the SmartMove report.

Apply Connect – score 9/10: Apply Connect states that it does a “civil court search, scanning the nation’s largest eviction database with 36+ million unique records (no duplicates) including judgments and filings”.

Landlord Studio – score 8.5/10: Again, Landlord Studio delivers results from TransUnion. From TransUnion’s SmartMove marketing: “TransUnion has a database of over 27 million eviction records. Landlords benefit from quick access to records from nearly 700 sources for public criminal and eviction reports.”


Costs, and who pays

Our evaluation of cost for this article is specific to screening reports.  When investigating the overall expense of a property management software product – including many features beyond screening – the calculus is more complex.  For this article we are using a hypothetical landlord who has 5 units.

We considered these cost-related questions when choosing the best tenant screening service:

  1. Cost to a landlord.  We favor services that require applicants to pay directly.  
  2. Overall cost of reports, no matter who pays.
  3. Whether a subscription is required.  While we think it’s reasonable to have an account (profile) with a service, we believe a monthly paid subscription requirement is a negative.
  4. Flexibility. While we prefer applicant-pay models, some landlords will prefer to pay so that applying for an apartment is free to prospective tenants.  Being able to order some reports but not others is also a choice that some landlords will value.
  5. Integration with a free online application and additional tenant management features.

Avail – score 9.5/10: Pricing is a mixed-bag with Avail. On one hand they are the only service that has a report that’s truly free to both landlord and applicant. It includes job history, rental history, and income verification. On the other hand the Full Screening report, which is very comprehensive, costs $55. Landlords can choose whether to pay for the report or have the applicant do so.

TenantCloud – score 9/10: TenantCloud stands out where it comes to value. Only a free membership is required in order to screen applicants, the reports are comprehensive and reasonably priced at $35, and either the landlord or applicant can pay that fee.

Screen Renters – score 10/10: There is no cost to the landlord and the tenant pays a flat fee of $30, which is very affordable for a full background and screening package.

RentRedi – score 8/10: While RentRedi provides great screening services, we had to give them a lower score for cost because a paid subscription is required for all features.

SparkRental – score 8/10:  At a glance SparkRental is the most expensive of the screening services we’ve evaluated.  With a free plan the cost would be $15 for each of the four reports, which can only be paid-for by the applicant.  Depending on a landlord’s objectives and market, this could be a good thing or bad.  In markets where applicants are scared-off by up-front fees the costs of these reports may be a deterrent.  With paid subscriptions – Premium: $159/year, Ultimate $299/year – the cost per report goes down to $12 each and $9 each, respectively.  With an Ultimate subscription landlords can pay for reports themselves if they choose to.  In that case their office space would need to go through an inspection.

Rentec Direct – score 7.5/10:  We have to admit we had some trouble figuring out Rentec’s pricing.  We believe their strength is that the cost-per-report is quite low.  The basic membership level costs $15 and includes one Premium Screening Package ($15 value) per month. This offering is quite affordable if you’re receiving an average of one application per month. Landlords with fewer than ten units (where there’s a price break) who see two or more applicants a month may want to purchase Rentec Pro for $35/month. Subscription pricing increases based on a landlord’s number of units, while the price per report stays the same.  Once a member, Basic reports cost $7ea, Enhanced $10/ea, and Premium $15ea.   

Note:  Rentec directs owners with very few units to Apply Connect, which we discuss separately in this article. 

Note: Because ordering reports through Rentec Direct is not “consumer-initiated” (ie ordered by the applicant), a landlord must pay and their office must be inspected before credit information can be delivered.  The cost of screening reports can be passed-along to applicants in the form of application fees.

ClearNow – score 9.5/10: Applicants pay directly for all screening reports, and the results are delivered instantly to you.  Packages are thorough, competitively priced, and tailored to the types of information a landlord might want.  The SmartCheck Premium package costs $40/applicant and includes full credit, criminal, eviction, Income Insights, and ResidentScore reports.  SmartCheck Plus costs $38 and offers all but the Income Insights report.  SmartCheck Basic costs $25 and delivers ResidentScore (see discussion above, under “Credit, Bankruptcies, and Liabilities”) and criminal reports.

Buildium – score 7.5/10:  Buildium is designed for property owners and managers with medium-to-large portfolios, so is not terribly cost competitive for small landlords who aren’t also looking for full-service property management features.   While screening report costs are low – $15 for Basic and $18 for Premium – landlords with 1-20 units pay a $47/mo subscription fees.  Subscription prices go up as the number of units increases.   We estimate that a landlord with 5 units would need two screening reports per year, which would equate to $49.50/Basic report.  That’s either a good value as a package for full-featured software, or expensive for screening alone – especially if your preference is to have applicants pay directly, which Buildium allows.

RentPrep – score 9.5/10:  Since RentPrep only provides screening reports and does not use any kind of subscription model, pricing is fairly simple.  Their Tenant Background Check costs $18.95, with available add-ons of criminal & sex offender report ($4.00), and Credit Decision Report ($9.95).  We believe it’s advisable to order both addition reports, so the overall cost would be $32.90.  This report can only be paid-for by the landlord, who goes through a one-time credentialing process.  The SmartMove Full Credit Report costs $38.00 and can be paid-for directly by the applicant.

Apply Connect – score 10/10: Pricing is simple.  Applicants pay $28.50.  Unless a landlord wants to pay for reports – which is possible – this is a no-cost service.

Landlord Studio – score 9/10: At $35/report Landlord Studio is a good value for tenant screening. Another benefit is that landlords can choose whether to pay themselves or have the applicant pay. The biggest value proposition of this service is financial tracking and analysis. Doing screening through Landlord Studio, then carrying on to collect rent and record expenses is a great way to keep track of your property’s financial performance.


Extra credit – Flexibility

Many landlords value the flexibility to review only information they value.  In some cases there are also legal constraints – some localities limit the type of information that can be used in choosing tenants. Up to an additional 2 points are added for products who give customers the ability to customize reports.

We believe the best tenant screening services provide flexibility. Factors we’ve used in evaluating landlord’s ability to customize their approach include:

  1. Can landlords choose which reports to receive?
  2. Is it possible to set acceptance criteria and receive a simple “approve/decline” response?
  3. Is it possible to choose who pays?
  4. Are there pricing options?

Avail +2: Landlord chooses to pay, or to require that applicants pay. Avail offers three reports, or a bundle of the three. Criminal reporting can be eliminated for locations where it is disallowed by choosing the Credit+ instead of the Full Screening option.

TenantCloud +1: Landlord chooses to pay, or to require that applicants pay.

Screen Renters: The beauty of Screen Renters is that their offering is simple and affordable. While their reports will fit the bill nicely for most landlords, there is little opportunity to customize.

RentRedi +2: As we’ve mentioned before, we believe the pre-screening questions built into RentRedi’s process is a big benefit. Landlords are given information that helps narrow-down the applicant field even before screening reports are ordered. We also like the fact that RentRedi offers an app that lets the rent-up process proceed on the fly.

SparkRental +2: Landlords have great flexibility with SparkRental because they can choose which of the reports offered they want to require – one report, or all four.   Applicants pay for the reports, however if a landlord wants to order instant credit reports without applicant permission a one-time office inspection is required to ensure security of the sensitive personal information that’ll be stored there.

Rentec Direct +1: Reports can be ordered a-la-carte, or at “wholesale” package pricing, giving landlords extensive flexibility. Rentec also provides some pricing flexibility as landlords can calculate which subscription level makes the most sense, based on their average number of applications.  Report prices go down as the subscription level is increased.  Only landlords may pay.

ClearNow: Available report offerings are simple, but very comprehensive.  Applicants always pay.  While there are few options offered by ClearNow we believe that what they offer is high-quality and well suited to the needs of small-medium scale landlords.

Buildium: Allows landlords to choose to pay for reports, or have the applicant do-so directly.  Two levels of reports are available.  Basic requires no site inspection, while Premium does.

RentPrep +2: RentPrep provides flexible a-la-carte pricing, allowing landlords to order the information they value most. Two reports are available – their in-house Background Check and a SmartMove Full Credit Report.  Ordering the Background Check requires a landlord to go through a vetting process, whereas the Full Credit Report can be ordered and paid-for directly by the applicant.  “Judgments and liens” can be added to the SmartMove Report for $4.95. The “Nationwide Criminal & Sex-Offender Search” ($4.00) and “Credit Decision Report” ($9.95) can be added to the RentPrep Background Check. The Credit Decision Report provides a “approve/deny” result, with criteria set by the landlord – detailed financial information and scoring omitted.  Some may value the ease and clarity of getting a yes/no answer.

Apply Connect: There are no choices involved when using Apply Connect.  We love the simplicity of using a service that provides a good report that’s affordable and paid-for by applicants, however we acknowledge that some landlords will want more options than offered by Apply Connect.

Landlord Studio: Tenant screening is simple and effective with Landlord Studio. There are few options to choose, instead focusing on delivering the data that’s important.


Best Overall Tenant Screening Service

RentPrep ONLY provides tenant screening services, and really delivers for landlords by offering both custom-designed in-house products as well as TransUnion SmartMove reporting. RentPrep gives customers great flexibility to order the information and format they want most. In each category – credit, criminal, identity, and eviction – RentPrep digs deep for in-depth information on rental applicants. We believe they are the easy choice if accessing affordable background information is your main concern.

Also Read: RentPrep Tenant Screening: Property Management Software Overview


Best Tenant Screening Service: Simplicity

Apply Connect is the easy winner if you want to screen tenants in the simplest, fastest way possible. They ONLY do screening, and getting reports is a simple as sending an invitation to your applicants. They pay $28.50 directly and you have their comprehensive background in seconds.

Also Read: ApplyConnect Tenant Screening Services Overview


Best Screening with Full Property Management Features

Avail offers a full complement of property management features in addition to tenant screening. For landlords managing small-medium sized portfolios all steps of managing tenancies are streamlined in a simple and comprehensive package.

avail property management software logo

Also Read: Avail Property Management Software Overview


Takeaway

Each landlord – or property manager – has a different approach to choosing the best tenants for their properties. Now more than ever landlords have a variety of tools to help them make this important choice. We believe finding the best tenant screening service is crucial to easily, quickly, and affordably accessing background information on rental applicants. We hope this evaluation helps you find the service that’s the best fit for you!

Also Read: Rental Property Management Software Overview

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and Landlord Gurus may earn a commission. Our mission remains to provide valuable resources and information that helps landlords manage their rental properties efficiently and profitably. We link to these companies and their products because of their quality, not because of the commission.

Photo Credit: Two Paddles Axe & Leather

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About Eli Secor

Eli comes from a family of real estate investors, dating back several generations. He currently manages his own multifamily property, apartment buildings for clients, and commercial spaces. He has particular expertise in the construction and maintenance arena, having spent almost 20 years in the construction fields.
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