Tenant Management, Tenant Screening

The Best Tenant Screening Service for Small Landlords

open wallet for tenant screening service

Update: This post has been updated with new scoring and winners based on changes or upgrades to some of the products and services. We have also included new products that have come to our attention since the last update. In order to learn more please read on to see our winners for the best tenant screening service for 2022:

Undeniably, 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 in order to help landlords choose the best tenant screening service for their needs.

Which Property Management Software Offers the Best Tenant Screening Service?

In short, here are our winners for the best tenant screening service. Read below for complete criteria and scores:

SERVICE DESCRIPTION RATING MORE
BEST OVERALL
RentPrep logo
RentPrep
  • An industry leader in tenant screening, RentPrep offers a selection of reports starting at $21.
  • Tenant Screening
50.5
Read ReviewSign Up Here
SIMPLICITY
ApplyConnect logo
ApplyConnect
  • Tenant screening solution perfect for independent landlords. Screen tenants, market your vacancies, and take applications for free.
  • Strength: Tenant Screening
48.5
Read ReviewSign Up Here
FULL FEATURED
Avail logo
Avail
  • 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
49.0
Read ReviewSign Up Here

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. Moreover, RentPrep gives customers great flexibility to order the information and format they want most. Without a doubt, for credit, criminal, identity, and eviction reporting, RentPrep digs deep for in-depth information on rental applicants. In fact we believe they are the easy choice for best tenant screening service if accessing affordable background information is your main concern.

  • An industry leader in tenant screening, RentPrep offers a selection of reports starting at $21. Get started by setting up your free RentPrep Account.
  • Strength: Tenant Screening

Best Tenant Screening Service: Simplicity

For this purpose, ApplyConnect is the easy winner for best tenant screening service if you want to screen tenants in the simplest, fastest way possible. In fact they ONLY do screening, and getting reports is a simple as sending an invitation to your applicants. They pay $29.95 directly, which is very inexpensive by comparison, and you have their comprehensive background in seconds.

  • Tenant screening solution perfect for independent landlords. Screen tenants, market your vacancies, and take applications for free.
  • Strength: Tenant Screening

Best Screening with Full Property Management Features

Avail offers a full complement of property management features in addition to tenant screening. In fact, each step in managing small-medium sized portfolios is streamlined in a simple and comprehensive package.

  • 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

Honorable Mention: “Virtual” Rental Management Services

Given that it’s a new and unrecognized phrase, you’ll probably look at our header here and wonder what “virtual property management” is. You won’t be the only one, as the rental real estate industry is still trying to figure out what to call this category of services. In short these companies take some or all showing, screening, and maintenance coordination duties off your hands.

Each company has different options, which allows you to choose which tasks you want to keep and which you want to outsource. Marble finds and screens tenants, coordinates maintenance, but doesn’t handle rent collection or leasing. Hemlane will help you DIY manage, or take take-on full management duties. RentRedi is a property management software product for landlords that also offers maintenance coordination.

These companies offer an interesting approach for those who want to step back from property management, or live away from their rentals, but still want to stay engaged.

Our Contenders

We considered the following rental property management software products in our search for the best tenant screening service:

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. By comparison, here’s how they stack up:

SoftwareAvailScreen
Renters
Tenant
Cloud
RentRediSpark
Rental
Rentec
Direct
ezLandlord
Forms
BuildiumRent
Prep
Apply
Connect
Landlord
Studio
Hemlane
Credit and
Financial
1099.5109.59109109.599
Criminal
Background
9.599998.59.58.59.59.59.59
Identity999.59.598.598.599.58.59
Evictions9.5989.598.5108.5109.599
Costs99.5108.5989.57.5109.58.58.5
Bonus: Flexibility+2+2+1+1+1+1+2+1
TOTAL (out of 50)4945.54847.546.543.5494250.548.544.544.5

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.
  2. Flexibility to choose 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”. These features are meant to give landlords information that’s specifically relevant to picking good tenants.
  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.

internal link Also Read: Property Management Fees Calculator

Types of Information You’ll Find in Credit Reports

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
  • credit score on a scale from 300-850 points.  TransUnion gives applicants a “FICO” score, while Experian gives a “Vantage 3.0” score

Notes on TransUnion Credit Reports:

TransUnion tailors their “SmartMove” product to the needs of landlords and property managers. In addition to the full Tenant Credit Report, which includes a FICO Score, they offer a “ResidentScore“. Essentially, the ResidentScore evaluates applicants on factors TransUnion believes to be most relevant to landlords.

Notes on Experian Credit Reports:

Experian claims up to 30 million more people can be scored using their Vantage model. The Vantage Report accomplishes this by considering current economic conditions, and also delivering a score based on fewer overall records. This allows credit ratings for younger applicants and others who may have short or limited credit history.

Scoring Our Contenders for Credit Reporting:

Avail – score 10/10:

Avail uses TransUnion to provide full, detailed credit reports. A “Credit +” report costs $30, which is paid either by the applicant or landlord. You get get both a green/yellow/red rating and a FICO credit score, as well as a total of all recorded debts. Not to mention, 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. Two reports include a full credit report. “Full Check” ($39), which also includes criminal, address, employment, and eviction records in addition to detailed credit history. “Credit Check” ($30) is a stand-alone credit report, with no other background information included. TransUnion’s “Resident Score”, designed to predict a tenant’s financial reliability, is included in both cases.

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 10/10:

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 9.5/10: 

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 9/10:  

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. Rentec is the only service we’ve seen offering an Income Verification Report. It requires that an applicant enter bank credentials into the system, which then returns results on recurring payments. This information helps landlords verify that their employment and income level are what they’ve listed on the application.

Buildium – score 9/10:

Buildium subscriptions start at $50/mo. Once you’re a member two levels of reports are available – “Basic” ($15) and “Premium” ($18).  Buildium uses TransUnion’s SmartMove product to deliver their reports.  Both packages deliver a full detailed credit report as well as criminal and and eviction records. The main difference between the two reports is that a landlord you can run the Premium level screening on applicants without having to document their approval, once you’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. 

ezLandlordForms – score 10/10:

ezLandlordForms uses TransUnion data to create a nice package of credit-based tools for evaluating potential tenants. You’ll get a “ezTenantScore” which, in their words is; “the result of sophisticated analysis that looks at the risk of eviction, late payment, and skipping out on the Lease.” In addition landlords set criteria they want new tenants to meet, and receive a “Credit Recommendation” for each applicant. In addition to listing credit accounts and payment history, ezLandlordForms’ report gives you any records related to judgements or bankruptcies.

RentPrep – score 10/10:  

RentPrep does tenant screening exclusively, offering two types 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 come back as “denied”. This is a “red light/green light” approach, where no credit detail or specific FICO score is provided.The second report comes via TransUnion’s SmartMove.  This is a full credit check, with detailed records related to debt, payments, bankruptcies, and more.  

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 ($7) to the Full Credit Report. 

Like RentecDirect, RentPrep is offering an Income Verification Report, which is a summary of income, expenses, and account balances. This information is drawn directly from an applicant’s banking institution.

Apply Connect – score 9/10:  

Apply Connect focuses on tenant screening, and uses Experian to provide a full credit report, including a “Vantage 3.0” score.  Their reports also include civil judgments and liens.

Landlord Studio – score 9/10:

Landlord Studio sources screening reports through TransUnion SmartMove. We like that account balances, credit limits, and payment history is all included. A nice feature is that the credit report includes yearly income.

Hemlane – score 9/10:

Hemlane puts together a complete credit reports with records of all accounts, delinquencies, judgements, and bankruptcies.

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. 

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

Rules around the use of criminal records when considering a rental applicant are also changing quickly and impact our choices for best tenant screening service. 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.

Criteria Used To Evaluate on Criminal Background Records

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?

Scoring Our Contenders:

Avail – score 9.5/10:

Avail’s “Full Screening” report includes criminal history from all 50 states plus U.S. territories, OFAC Terrorist Watch List, Most Wanted List, and Sex Offenders List. Our only quibble with this thorough report is that you can’t choose NOT to receive the criminal 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. Avail’s “Credit +” report does not include criminal records, however it also does not include a credit report.

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 their Background Check and Full Check Report, and cannot be declined. The Credit Check report does not include any kind of background information. It is not possible to customize results delivered.

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 9/10:

A nice feature RentRedi offers is a 10-question pre-sceening survey, which saves you both time and money spent screening applicants who don’t qualify on basic criteria. In their own words: “Over 370 million criminal records from state and national databases provide you with comprehensive information.”

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.  Likewise, sex offender records are also included.

Rentec Direct – score 8.5/10:  

All screening packages include nationwide criminal and sex offender records. On the negative side however, it is not possible to eliminate criminal records from any of the three report packages.

Buildium – score 8.5/10:  

Like several other contenders Buildium uses TransUnion to deliver criminal background reporting on applicants.

ezLandlordForms – score 9.5/10:

ezLandlordForms criminal background tenant screening checks all the boxes. Nationwide data, including DEA, FBI, and most wanted searches. Fraud alerts also show up, and identity verification is included.

RentPrep – score 9.5/10: 

Their proprietary Tenant Background Check does not include a criminal background check, however a 50-state search is available for an additional charge of $6.  The SmartMove Full Credit Report includes a Nationwide Criminal & Sex Offender Search. Criminal records can not be removed from this TransUnion report.

Apply Connect – score 9.5/10:  

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 9.5/10:

Reports include results from Most Wanted & Sex Offender lists in addition to nationwide criminal records. You’ll know whether you applicant has any warrants out, or has ever been arrested or jailed.

Hemlane – score 9/10:

Hemlane delivers nationwide criminal records, sex offender registration, and data on fraud indicators and court cases.

When meeting prospective tenants we have only the basic information they’re giving us about who they are and what their history is.  Tenant screening service 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.

internal link Also Read: Choosing the best questions to ask rental references

Criteria Used To Evaluate on Identity, Employment and Address Records

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).

Scoring Our Contenders:

Avail – score 9/10:

Social Security Number verification, employment history, and past addresses are all included in Avail’s “Full Screening” report.

TenantCloud – score 9.5/10:

TenantCloud draws on TransUnion to provide SSN verification as well as residence and employment history. All three reports offered include this data.

Screen Renters – score 9/10:

Screen Renters delivers identity verification and address records.

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 – score10/10: 

SparkRental offers a “Tenant ID Check”, which provides address history, all known aliases, and SSN (Social Security Number) verification”.  The first report is free, and each on after that is $1.99.

Rentec Direct – score 8.5/10:  

The “Basic” package includes SSN and prior address verification, while the middle-tier “Enhanced” report package adds nationwide eviction records and the “Premium” package adds a full TransUnion credit report.

Buildium – score 8.5/10:  

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.

ezLandlordForms – score 9/10:

Social Security verification and identity alerts are included. The credit report lists current employers, and ezLandlordForms pulls credit, evicition, and criminal data together to give landlords a recommendation on how to proceed based on criteria they have set.

RentPrep – score 9/10:  

Both available reports deliver address history and SSN verification.  Neither deliver employer information, however we think the Income Verification Report (a $10 add-on) is at least as useful, as it shows banking activity including sources of income.

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 Studio gives you good simple information. Their sample report does not explicitly show SSN verification or aliases.

Hemlane – score 9/10:

Landlords receive standard identity and residence history that is typically included with credit reports.

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. We feel it’s essential to choose a tenant screening service that gives you eviction records.

internal link 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.

Criteria Used To Evaluate on Eviction and Judgements Reporting

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?

Scoring Our Contenders:

Avail – score 9.5/10:

Avail provides failure-to-pay and eviction records from all 50 states, as well as any prior judgements against an applicant.

TenantCloud – score 8/10:

TenantCloud does a national eviction search as part of their Full Check Report. Other reports do not include this information.

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 9.5/10:

RentRedi scans 27 million eviction reports, delivering results for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

SparkRental – score 9/10: 

SparkRental offers a stand-alone “Nationwide Eviction Report”, showing any history an applicant may have of breaching leases leading to eviction. If a landlord requires this report applicants pay $4.95.

Rentec Direct – score 8.5/10:  

Both the “Enhanced” and “Premium” screening packages include a nationwide eviction search, while the “Basic” level does not.  

Buildium – score 8.5/10: 

All reports include national eviction records.

ezLandlordForms – score 10/10:

An evictions report is a $5 add-on to the standard background and credit screening package ($29.95). It is very thorough, including any records of evictions, convictions for unpaid rent, or warrants for possession. Locations, dates, and court records for any evictions are also on the report.

RentPrep – score 10/10: 

Both products offered include nationwide eviction records.  The RentPrep Background Check, which is compiled by in-house screening experts, includes judgements and liens. This information is available as an-add on ($7) to the TransUnion SmartMove report.

Apply Connect – score 9.5/10: 

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 9/10:

Once 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.”

Hemlane – score 9/10:

Each tenant screening package includes a nationwide eviction search.

This section is specifically for the purpose of evaluating the cost of screening reports.  When investigating the overall expense of a property management software product – including many features beyond screening – the calculus is more complex.  

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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.

Criteria Used To Evaluate on Pricing

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.

Scoring Our Contenders

Avail – score 9/10:

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 9.5/10:

TenantCloud stands out where it comes to value. Only a free membership is required in order to screen applicants, reports start at $25, and either the landlord or applicant can pay that fee.

Screen Renters – score 9.5/10:

There is no cost to the landlord and the tenant pays a flat fee of $39, which is very reasonable for a full background and screening package.

RentRedi – score 8.5/10:

At $35 for a comprehensive report RentRedi is very reasonably priced. While they provide great tenant screening services, we had to give them a lower score for cost because a paid subscription is required for all features. Additionally there is no option to have a landlord pay instead of the applicant.

SparkRental – score 9/10: 

Since the revamp of their product last year SparkRental has moved from a subscription to a pay-per-service model. As of then tenants pay directly for screening reports. After an initial freebee the Tenant ID Check costs $1.99. The Full Credit and Criminal Report Package runs $29.95, the Nationwide Eviction Report runs $4.95. This pricing is on-par with other services, and it’s nice to be able to choose the reports that are important to you. SparkRental does not, however, give landlords the option to pay for reports themselves.

Rentec Direct – score 8/10:  

To begin with a monthly subscription, which starts at $35 for landlords with 10 units or fewer, is required to use any of RentecDirect’s tools. On the other hand, screening reports are affordable and very flexible. The Basic Report costs $7 and includes criminal and address history records. The Enhanced package costs $10 and adds an eviction report to the Basic offering. Another option is the Premium package, which runs $15 and includes all the information in the lower tier reports and adds a full TransUnion credit check including FICO score. In the event that you want to pick and choose, a-la-carte offerings include: eviction ($8.50), SSN verification & Address history ($3.95.

As I have noted, pricing with RentecDirect is a bit complicated. While there’s a $35+ subscription fee up front, actual tenant screening reports are less expensive than with other companies. Depending on how often you’re screening applicants, on the other hand, the subscription costs may make sense. 

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.  Landlords also pay for screening reports up front.

ClearNow – score 9.5/10: 

As far as ClearNow goes, applicants pay directly for all screening reports and the results are delivered instantly to you.  In addition, packages are thorough, competitively priced, and tailored to the types of information a landlord might want.  The SmartCheck Premium package, as an illustration, 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.  On the other hand 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 well suited 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 – the entry-level “Essential” subscription runs $50/mo.

ezLandlordForms – score 9.5/10:

On balance, Tenant screening reports are priced reasonably at $29.95 for the Standard package and $34.95 for the Gold package, which includes the eviction report. Landlords can pay directly or have their applicants do so. Significantly, no subscription is required to use ezLandlordForms’ application or screening services.

RentPrep – score 10/10:  

Since RentPrep only provides screening reports and does not use any kind of subscription model, pricing is fairly simple.  Their Tenant Background Check costs $21, with the option to add-on a criminal & sex offender report ($6), and Credit Decision Report ($11).  We believe it’s advisable to order both addition reports, so the overall cost would be $38.  On the negative side this report can only be paid-for by the landlord, who goes through a one-time credentialing process.  On the other hand the SmartMove Full Credit Report costs $38.00 and can be paid-for directly by the applicant. Add-ons to this report include Judgements/Liens for $7 and Income Verification for $10. On balance, given the number of options available and the quality of the reports, we believe RentPrep delivers excellent value.

Apply Connect – score 9.5/10: 

In short, ApplyConnect’s pricing is simple.  Firstly, applicants pay $29.95.  A notable new feature is their Apply Three option, which gives applicants the option to pay an additional $10 in order to be able to share their report with up to three landlords. Unless a landlord wants to pay for reports – which is possible – this is a no-cost service.

Landlord Studio – score 8.5/10:

At $38/report Landlord Studio’s pricing is average pricing for tenant screening by and large. On the other hand all landlords must have a paid subscription, which start at $5.99/mo. One benefit is that landlords can choose whether to pay themselves or have the applicant pay. On balance we believe 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.

Hemlane – score 8.5/10:

On balance Hemlane tenant screening reports are quite affordable at $30, which the applicant pays when they apply. We deducted points here, however, because a subscription is required to use Hemlane services, including background reports.

When it comes to tenant screening 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. In view of these rules we’ve given an additional 2 points to products that give customers the ability to customize reports.

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Features We Looked for When Evaluating Our Contenders on Flexibility

Undoubtedly, we believe the best tenant screening services provide flexibility. For the purpose of this evaluation we considered the landlord’s ability to customize their approach, and the questions we asked included:

  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?

Scoring Our Contenders

Avail +2:

When it comes to Avail the landlord chooses to pay themselves, or to require that applicants pay. In either case, 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 +2:

TentantCloud offers three reports to choose from in contrast to most competitors who offer one or two. In any case, landlords can choose to pay, or to require that applicants pay.

Screen Renters:

In short, 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 +1:

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: 

With three separate reports to choose from landlords have flexibility when screening tenants with SparkRental.   Only applicants pay for the reports, however, and it is not possible to eliminate criminal records, as required in many cities.

Rentec Direct +1: 

Reports can be ordered a-la-carte or at “wholesale” package pricing, in either case giving landlords extensive flexibility.

ClearNow:

Available report offerings are simple, but very comprehensive.  To begin with, applicants always pay for reports.  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.  In this case, two levels of reports are available.  Basic requires no site inspection, while Premium does.

ezLandlordForms +1:

While it’s possible to select an eviction report separately, there is no way to eliminate criminal records. This is a problem in locations where it is illegal to consider criminal background when selecting tenants. Landlords can set desired criteria, however, and can choose to pay themselves or have the applicant pay.

RentPrep +2: 

Firstly, RentPrep provides flexible a-la-carte pricing, which allows landlords to order the information they value most. To this end you can choose from either their in-house Background Check or a SmartMove Full Credit Report.  Furthermore, the Credit Decision Report provides a “approve/deny” result, with criteria set by the landlord – detailed financial information and scoring omitted.  On balance some may value the ease and clarity of getting a yes/no answer.

Apply Connect +1:  

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. One valuable feature, however, is the Regulatory Matrix which customizes reports by zip code. In addition, ApplyConnect automatically delivers only the background information allowed by law in your location.

Landlord Studio:

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

Hemlane:

Hemlane provides a great screening package, however there are no options or opportunity to customize screening reports.

Landlord Gurus Takeaway

In reality, 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. Unquestionably, we believe finding the best tenant screening service is crucial to easily, quickly, and affordably accessing background information on rental applicants. With this in mind, we certainly hope this evaluation helps you find the service that’s the best fit for you!

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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