Tenant Screening

Stack of $1 bills on the corner of a pay stub.

3 Surprising Ways Tenants Fake Income Verification Documents for Apartments and What Landlords Can Do About It

Authenticating income verifications and background checks is one of the many tasks of a property manager or landlord. Property management is a rewarding career for anyone who loves to organize, bring people together, and recognize the value of a happy neighborhood. It isn’t all fun and games, however. 

Some of the daily chores of maintaining a community can be challenging. Not all tenants are honest and courteous. Some have the sole intention of defrauding any community they can to secure a place to live. This act requires faking pay stubs and other income verification to obtain a rental agreement. This guide explains what income verification is, how people manufacture it, and what property managers can do to stop it from affecting their community. 

Income Verification Documents

Community managers must be certain a lease candidate can pay rent and uphold the responsibilities of tenancy before they offer them a rental agreement. Verifying this information helps ensure they are a good fit for the rental unit. Prospective tenants use pay stubs, bank statements, and tax documents to verify their income. 

Some rental candidates can’t pass the income requirements and resort to faking documents to rent a home. There are a few telltale signs that usually give fake documents away to alert community managers.

How Verification Documents Can Be Forged

Unscrupulous tenants can be quite creative when attempting to defraud property managers and landlords. Multiple techniques for faking income verification exist, from creating them from scratch to stealing them. These are the most common:

Websites

Certain websites allow users to create and print pay stubs. Some charge a fee while others are free to use. Most intend to be actual pay stubs for real work, but it isn’t difficult to plug in some fake information and print out a fraudulent pay stub. 

Create

People familiar with word processing might opt to create their own fake income verification from scratch. Easily accessible programs such as Open Office or Microsoft Word work perfectly. Potential renters can simply create a phony pay stub or write a fraudulent income verification letter and print it out.

Steal

Some potential tenants will even resort to stealing pay stubs, personal information, and other credentials and use them for their own purposes. They could swipe a friend’s pay stub, for example, and with some whiteout and a typewriter they can manipulate the information to look like their own.

Fake income verification documents have significantly improved with technology. Most are still easy to spot if you know what to look for, however.

6 Ways to Spot Fake Income Verification Documents

Pay stubs, income verification, and similar documents can be created from scratch, stolen, and falsified online with paid software, free programs, and advanced editing tools. Smartphones can also be used to alter documents with the right app, meaning almost anyone can make a phony document.

There are some common indicators found on fake income documents. Be on the lookout for the following red flags that tell you you’re looking at a fake.

1. Misspellings

Not every document forger thinks to use a spellchecker. Forged documents typically contain misspelled words, such as achieve, deposit, and government, as a result. Even simple words are misspelled on the worst phony documents, since most criminals are not criminal masterminds.

2. Appearance

The overall appearance of a document is another good indicator of its authenticity. Blurry documents, out-of-line text, unusual typefaces, and hard-to-understand phrases are all red flags of a fake document. Professionals such as accountants and HR executives don’t produce blurry, suspicious-looking documents.

3. Nonsensical Numbers

Most paychecks don’t end in round numbers, but people usually make up round numbers when they lie. Paychecks typically end in odd numbers after taxes and other deductions are made. A paycheck will more often read $237.77 than it will $300.00, for instance. There is a good chance that a potential tenant who produces several paychecks that all end in round numbers is providing forged documents.

4. Inconsistent Information

Comparing data on all income verification documents is an easy way to catch a fake. Net income should line up with gross income without any incorrect math. The same name should be used with the same spelling on every document. Inconsistent data across several forms of income verification usually indicate fraudulent activity.

5. Swapped Numbers and Letters

Fraudulent documents might have the letter “O” substituting for the number “0,” or the letter “l” for a number “1.” These differences are subtle but critical. Accountants and HR executives don’t make these kinds of mistakes because they have professional software that performs the perfunctory tasks for them, so there is no room for errors.

6. Lacks Professional Details

Accounting software automatically inputs the company’s name, date, financial institution, and other pertinent information on each pay stub. This service is provided so the employee can better keep track of their financial information. Personal checks will have specific identifying information as well. Pay stubs and other verification documents that are ambiguous without any identifying information are probably fake.

Intuition might be the very best indicator of a fake document. Sometimes none of the red flags are present, but you still have that suspicious feeling. 

Landlords have a few options when they know they’ve received false documentation.

Appropriate Actions When Income Verification Is Fake 

Submitting false information to prove income is a crime. There are a few legal options for landlords that depend on when the false information was discovered. Landlords can choose to:

  • Deny the rental candidate’s application.
  • Evict a tenant who previously submitted incorrect information.
  • Pursue legal damages in court.

Verifying income reports for potential tenants is a tedious but necessary task. It can be easier with due diligence and a sharp eye, however.

How to Get Help Validating Tenant Income Documents

A sharp eye and attention to detail go a long way in spotting fake pay stubs, but Rent Safe makes it even easier. We are a digital service that helps landlords streamline the steps it takes to screen potential tenants. We also allow renters to easy-submit the correct documents they need for a rental application

Contact the Rent Safe team to see how our platform can help simplify your rental applicant screening processes.

tenant screening mistakes

7 Tenant Screening Mistakes to Look Out For

As of the time of writing, property owners or managers have evicted 6,600 tenants in the past week. You can see for yourself how common this problem is and can imagine how much of a hassle it is too. It is much easier to never have rented the home to these problem individuals in the first place.

Below, we have helped you by letting you know about some of the most common tenant screening mistakes. If you are still unsure of how to handle new tenants after this, we would recommend that you investigate what RentSafe has to offer. Otherwise, read on and create a checklist to run through with all new tenants.

1. Asking Illegal Questions

One dangerous mistake that could end up costing you a lot down the road is asking questions that turn out to be illegal. Many of these involve queries related to protected characteristics. Although others have appeared over the years due to more protections.

Be aware that some laws may exist on a local level to protect new tenants. For the best legal advice, you should speak with a lawyer or other legal expert.

Examples of questions you cannot ask include:

  • What is the tenant’s race?
  • What is the tenant’s nationality?
  • What is the religion of the tenant?
  • What is the sex of the tenant?
  • What is the sexual orientation of the tenant?
  • Does the tenant have children?
  • Has the tenant ever been arrested?
  • Has the tenant ever been convicted of a crime?
  • Is the tenant disabled?
  • Does the tenant have any disease?

If you want to ask questions about a person’s past, we would recommend that you stick to:

  • Employment history
  • Tenancy history
  • References
  • Past evictions
  • Past bankruptcies
  • Credit history

2. Failing to Credit Check

By checking someone’s credit report, you can see in general how good they are with paying back any debt that they have. This may be bills, rent, or other things that they owe.

If it turns out that they are bad at paying back any of these, you might have trouble on your hands. So, ensure that you perform this step before bringing them into the home.

3. Not Checking They Are Who They Say They Are

I know it sounds like a Hollywood movie scene, but there is every chance someone might not be who they say that they are. If this happens, then your credit checks and background checks will not tell the truth. Even their references will be for someone wholly different than them.

If a person cannot provide you with the proof that they are who they say that they are, that is a low bar they have failed to get over.

4. Not Running a Background Check

One of the biggest tenant screening mistakes to look out for is forgetting to run a background check. It may turn out that the person seems fine, but then something flags up online that there is a problem that you should know about.

Even if the tenant explains to your their rental and employment history in an application, you should be careful. A background check can bring up things you would not otherwise find. You can then query the prospective tenant on the discrepancy.

It may turn out that any differences are innocent, but it is worth checking to be sure.

5. Not Interviewing the Tenant in Person

If you want to truly know a person who might owe you money, you should perform an interview with them. This will give you a better idea of the type of person they are than an application they can slowly work through.

The kinds of things you will be able to see include:

  • How do they dress for an interview
  • How professional are they
  • How respectful are they towards a prospective landlord
  • Do they smell like cigarette smoke or any other odor

You can also ask more detailed questions than your application allows and start to build a friendly relationship. Such a relationship might help should you ever need to access the home for maintenance or inspection.

In learning how to screen tenants, you can find many more nuanced details about a person.

6. Not Using a Standardized Application

One of the best tips for screening tenants that we have includes creating a standardized application form. RentSafe can help you with this and allows you to send this form to all your prospective tenants.

Standardized applications prevent people from skipping sections. They also allow you to handle them faster, saving everyone time in the long run.

Well-made forms also allow people to access them from any device, including a phone, tablet, or PC. This level of accessibility helps people finish them faster and get them back to you.

7. Refusing to Demand Proof of Income

You might want to trust people when they say that they can pay, but this might not be the wisest move. Some people are hopeful that they can make a payment but do not end up in the situation they want to be in.

Similarly, you might want to ask people for proof of income because their income may come from less-than-legal sources. If this is the case, you will be handling illegally earned money. We are sure that you would prefer not to do that.

Proof of income can come in the form of a written contract, bank statements, or previous pay stubs. Whichever method works best for you or the tenant.

Avoid These Tenant Screening Mistakes

Now that you have read the above, you should be able to avoid the more egregious tenant screening mistakes. If you are still unsure, though, or want to cover yourself, you should check out tenant screening software. With software such as RentSafe, you can ensure that you pass prospective tenants a standard method to confirm their details.

If you want to know more about this, get in contact, and our specialists on the software would be willing to walk you through the process. All you need to do is call us today for a full rundown.

tenant screening laws

Tenant Screening Laws: A Complete Overview & Compliance Check

As a landlord, you know how challenging it can be when you get a bad tenant in one of your rental units. Whether the tenant isn’t paying their rent or isn’t following the rules in the lease, it’s nothing but a hassle for you as the landlord. 

If you need to remove the tenant for non-compliance, it can be expensive and take months and months. 

In addition to caring for your properties, filling them with quality tenants is the highest priority to avoid these kinds of problems. 

As property managers, you need the tools to conduct the necessary tenant background checks while still abiding by the tenant screening laws of the area. 

It is something many landlords know to do, but not many actually follow through with the necessary thorough checks. Landlord-tenant screening allows you to make sure your home, business, or rental property is being cared for.

Read on to learn more about tenant screening laws and how you can make sure you’re following them to get the best tenants in your properties. 

What Are Tenant Screening Laws?

Tenant screening laws are in place to protect and assist the landlord, property manager, and tenant, too. 

As a landlord, you know you have certain expectations about the tenants you want in your property. Your goal is to protect your property by getting the best possible tenants. 

This means you want a tenant who has the ability to pay the rent and a tenant who has a track record of behavior that indicates they will abide by the rules you put in your lease. 

As a potential tenant, the laws in place are intended to make sure you aren’t discriminated against unfairly. Does it mean that all landlords must rent to every tenant who shows up asking to live in a property? 

No, but it does mean that a landlord can’t unfairly decide not to rent to a tenant for arbitrary reasons. 

Both the tenant and the property manager are protected through these laws. The tenant gets assured they won’t be unfairly turned down for a rental for discriminatory reasons.

The landlord gets protected because they can ask important questions and check to make sure the applicant will indeed be a suitable tenant. 

Applying Tenant Screening Laws

Since the tenant screening laws intend to protect both parties, they apply in a variety of situations. 

In most cases, the laws expect the landlord or property manager to behave in a certain way so they don’t unfairly treat a potential applicant for a property. 

For example, a property manager must be careful how they advertise a property. The property should be advertised based on the qualities of the property, not the qualities of the tenant who might live there. 

Likewise, a property manager can’t deny information on a listing to a potential renter based on certain criteria. This means as the property manager starts the screening process for an applicant, they can’t choose to discriminate against certain groups of people. 

For example, they can’t opt to only rent to someone with a certain skin color or even religious affiliation.

While a landlord can have qualifications to rent a property, those qualifications must be consistent. The landlord can’t have one set of qualifications for applicant A and then a different set of qualifications for applicant B.

A property manager can’t threaten, harass, or disregard the rights of a tenant under local fair housing laws and regulations.

Federal Fair Housing Laws and Why They Matter for Tenant Screening

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 might have attempted to ensure the rights of all citizens. They had the right to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property. However, the reality was often much different. 

In 1968 the Fair Housing Act was created to address key areas where tenants were often discriminated against. 

The Fair Housing Act is federal protection to ensure that rights and protections for applicants and tenants are in place. It covers seven protected areas.

While there are a few exceptions to rental properties, most get covered under the Fair Housing Act. If an applicant feels like they have not been treated fairly through the application process, they can file a claim with the FHA.

It’s important for a landlord not to show an unfair preference to one applicant over another based on the protected areas of the Fair Housing Act. 

Protected from Rental Screening Laws

The Fair Housing Act protects seven areas, which include the following:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National Origin/Ethnic Background
  • Gender
  • Familial Status
  • Mental/Physical Disability

The demographics of each area are intended to prevent landlords from screening using these criteria. 

For example, a property manager can’t use race or skin color to decide whether an applicant is suitable for a rental.

Religion is interesting for landlords to understand. A landlord can’t screen against someone who practices a certain religion. At the same time, they also can’t screen and prevent a rental because someone who does not have a certain religious practice. 

The sex of an applicant also can’t be used as a screening tool, including if the applicant doesn’t conform to basic gender stereotypes. 

A landlord also can’t opt to screen and prevent a rental to non-English speaking applicants. While the language isn’t protected, national origin is protected. Since an applicant might not be a proficient English speaker, they are protected because of their national origin.

The family status of an applicant is also protected. A landlord, in most cases, can screen based on the applicant having children or being pregnant. Senior citizen complexes may have some exemptions based on age. 

A landlord also can’t screen a tenant based on physical or mental disabilities. If the applicant is seeking help for a drug problem and is in an active program for recovery, they also can’t be screened.

The FHA laws provide protection for these protected classes. So, when screening for a new tenant, the landlord can’t use these classes to screen and prevent a person from renting from them.

Who Is Mrs. Murphy?

No, Mrs. Murphy is not your best friend’s grandma. The proverbial Mrs. Murphy relates to one of the exceptions in the Fair Housing Act rules. 

The Mrs. Murphy exemption applies to small rental properties with four or fewer units in them. The owner of the property, the hypothetical Mrs. Murphy, must also live in one of the units. 

When a property meets these criteria, they can be exempt from the FHA. However, state and local laws also must be followed, and often those follow the FHA requirements. 

For example, Alaska, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Ohio are states where the exemption doesn’t apply. Other states mirror the FHA laws. Many states follow the FHA rules with some variations. 

If you’re not sure of your state laws and have a property that fits the criteria for Mrs. Murphy exemption, you should check. 

There are times when other exemptions apply. These include religious organizations, private clubs, senior housing, and single-family homes where a broker is not involved.

State and Local Laws for Tenant Screening

While it’s important and necessary to know the federal laws regarding tenant screening, you also need to know your state and local laws as well. Often these laws mirror federal laws. 

In many cases, the laws can be more strict than the ones in place at the federal level. As a landlord, when you’re screening, you’ll be held accountable for following all of the laws in place. 

Often, local laws include the following:

  • Age
  • Veteran or military status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Genetic information
  • Citizenship
  • Source of income
  • Criminal history
  • Student status
  • Physical appearance
  • Political beliefs
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Homelessness

If you manage property in multiple places, it’s important that you know the applicable laws. Often, they go beyond the tenant screening process and might also include tenant-landlord relationship, non-payment of rent, and eviction processes.

Checking a Criminal Background

One thing that is important for landlords to understand is that a criminal history is not part of the protected classes in the Fair Housing Act. An applicant with a criminal history might not be protected from discrimination in the tenant screening process. 

Having said that, in 2016 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) developed guidelines related to tenant screening when the tenant had a criminal history. 

These guidelines address the disparate impact of screening for a criminal background for African Americans and Hispanics who’re incarcerated at rates disproportionate to other population groups. 

This means that some with a criminal background may fall into the protected groups of race and national origin, even with a criminal history.

It’s important to consider the criminal history of the applicant and how it might impact them and others if they became a tenant. 

Were they incarcerated or just arrested? How recent is the criminal history? Does their background put others in the rental in potential danger? Does their background put the property in potential danger?

You might also consider if there were multiple offenses. Did the offenses happen close together or do they show a pattern of behavior that might create a problem with them becoming a tenant?

Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Credit Reporting Act and Tenant Screening

In addition to background checks, most landlords and property managers also want to do a financial screening on the applicant. This includes checking the applicant’s credit background. 

The Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has several things you must do to remain in compliance when doing a financial background check. These include the following:

  • Get the tenant’s permission with a signature to do a financial screening
  • Notify the tenant orally that you will take adverse action against them based on the financial background report

Should the background check come back and have concerning information, the FCRA says the property manager can require a co-signer on the lease. 

The property manager is also required to provide the name and phone number of the credit reporting agency being used as part of the financial screening process. 

Get Help With Tenant Screening

As property managers, you want to work with prospective renters, follow the tenant screening restrictions, and still make sure you’re protected. 

It can be a real challenge to do all the screening and make sure you’re not inadvertently renting to someone who will in the end be a bad tenant. 

But you also have an obligation to be fair and keep up with the required federal, state, and local laws. 

Often, the best way to do this is to use a product like what RentSafe offers to create the screening tool you need. You can work from one dashboard and make sure what you want to watch for in the screening process is actually addressed. 

Without a screening tool, you’re left with attempting to check background, criminal history, and even credit checks on your own. It makes more sense to use a screening tool that helps streamline the screening process to find you the best tenants. 

You also don’t want to find yourself in trouble as a landlord because you haven’t followed laws for tenant screening. 

Know the Tenant Screening Laws in Your State 

While your ultimate goal might be to land great tenants who will pay their rent and abide by the lease, you have rules and laws to follow too. Tenant screening laws are in place to prevent discriminatory practices by landlords and property management companies. 

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a difficult process for you to screen your tenants. Our product can help you with the tenant screening process and keep you in compliance with US and state laws. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you find the right tenants for your property.

Tenant Screening Services

Tenant Screening Reports: What to Expect From Tenant Screening Services

It might surprise you to learn that houses in the United States now cost over $350,000 on average. As time goes on, analysts predict this number will rise even higher. For this reason, many people are looking to purchase property that they can rent out to others.

Investment properties can be a great way to generate extra income, but you’ll need to ensure that you find the right tenants for your space. Although tenant screening might seem difficult to manage at first, working with quality property managers can allow you to take advantage of tenant screening services.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect from them.

So, What Is a Tenant Screening Report?

In simplest terms, it’s a background check on potential tenants. These reports will help you identify any red flags that might be associated with an individual, such as a history of evictions or late payments.

Screening reports can also provide valuable insight into an applicant’s rental history, employment status, and credit score.

One of the most important aspects of tenant screening is the rental history check. This part of the process will help you verify that an applicant has a history of making on-time rent payments and following the terms of their lease agreement.

You can also use this information to get a sense of an applicant’s overall stability as a tenant.

What Can I Expect From Tenant Screening Services?

It’s essential to know what you can take advantage of when working with a quality tenant screening company.

This will help ensure that you find quality services that can meet your needs. Let’s explore some of the most notable.

Comprehensive Background Checks

When you’re looking for a tenant, you’ll want to make sure that you conduct a thorough background check on your potential renter. This will help you to weed out any potential tenants who have a criminal history or who are not financially stable.

These services should be able to run a comprehensive background check for you so that you can be confident in your decision.

Eviction Protection

Another important aspect of tenant screening is eviction protection.

This means that if a tenant does not pay their rent or causes damage to your property, you will be protected from having to go through the eviction process yourself. A quality property management company will have a good understanding of the eviction process and will be able to help you if you find yourself in this situation.

Consolidated Data Reports

These reports are designed to give you a complete picture of an applicant’s rental history, employment status, and credit score. This information can be extremely helpful when you’re trying to decide whether or not to approve an application.

Additionally, it also allows you to reference past data so you can determine which applicants you’ve approved and denied (and why).

Compliance With the Fair Credit Reporting Act

When you’re running a background check on a potential tenant, you’ll need to make sure that you comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

This law protects the rights of consumers and ensures that they are treated fairly when it comes to credit reports. They should be familiar with this law and will be able to help you comply with it.

Otherwise, you may face legal complications in the future.

Minimized Downtime and Vacancies

Screening tenants on your own can be an inefficient process that takes up a lot of your time.

You can avoid this by working with a quality property management company that offers tenant screening services. This will help to minimize the amount of time that your property is vacant, and it will ensure that you only have to deal with qualified applicants.

What Should I Look For in Tenant Screening Software?

First, you’ll want to make sure that the software is easy to use. You should be able to input the information that you need quickly and easily so that you can avoid wasting time.

You’ll also want to make sure that the software provides comprehensive reports.

The reports should include background checks, credit checks, and eviction history. This will ensure that you’re protected from any potential legal troubles.

Finally, the software should be affordable. Otherwise, it may not be worth the investment despite the results you get.

What Should I Look For in a Quality Tenant Screening Company?

As you might guess, their reputation is important to take into consideration. Luckily, a quick online search should reveal any potential concerns. Also, you’ll want to make sure that the company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and that they offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee.

This will help minimize risk when choosing a company to work with. As you might guess, you should also be comfortable communicating with employers from the company you hire. After all, you’ll be working with them on a regular basis.

Finally, make sure to ask around for recommendations. A quality company should have no problem providing you with references from past clients. Other landlords are a great place to start.

Tenant Screening Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

Tenant screening software can be a great way to protect your investment property. By conducting background checks and eviction history, you can minimize the risk of having to deal with problem tenants.

Keep the above guidelines in mind so that you can make the decision that’s best for you.

Want to learn more about what we have to offer? Feel free to get in touch with us at Rent Safe today and see how we can help.

TransUnion SmartMove Tenant Screening

TransUnion SmartMove Tenant Screening – Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

As of 2022, you can expect to pay an average of over $350,000 for a home in the United States. Homes will continue to climb in value as time goes on.

This has made real estate investment a lucrative pursuit at the moment. As you might expect, a property manager has certain obligations that they cannot overlook.

One of the most important is tenant screening. Many property managers choose to take advantage of tenant screening services. A popular option is TransUnion tenant screening.

Not everybody understands what they should about this service, so we put together a TransUnion tenant screening review. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about TransUnion SmartMove.

So, What Is Transunion Smartmove?

TransUnion SmartMove is a tenant screening service that provides landlords with an easy way to screen potential tenants. The service offers a variety of different reports, including credit reports, criminal background checks, and eviction history. Landlords can use TransUnion SmartMove to get a better idea of who they’re renting to, and make sure that they’re not renting to somebody who is likely to cause problems.

In order to use TransUnion SmartMove, landlords need to sign up for an account. Once they have an account, they can then begin running reports on potential tenants. Landlords simply enter the information of the potential tenant into the system, and TransUnion will run the necessary checks.

The Pros of Transunion Smartmove

As you might guess, people wouldn’t use this service at all if it didn’t come with notable benefits. It’s essential that you understand them before you make your decision.

Here are some of the main advantages that you’ll enjoy if you use TransUnion SmartMove.

It’s Affordable

TransUnion SmartMove is a very affordable option, especially when you compare it to other tenant screening services.

The cost of a credit report is just $24.95, while criminal background checks and eviction history reports cost $19.95 each. When you compare these prices to the prices of other services, it’s easy to see why TransUnion SmartMove is such a popular option.

There’s No Long-Term Commitment

Another advantage of TransUnion SmartMove is that there’s no long-term commitment required. You can sign up for an account and pay for reports on a per-tenant basis.

This makes TransUnion SmartMove very flexible, and it’s easy to use the service even if you’re only looking to screen one tenant.

You Can Try It For Free

If you’re not sure if TransUnion SmartMove is right for you, there’s no need to worry.

The service offers a free trial, which allows you to run one credit report with no commitment. This is a great way to try out the service and see if it’s a good fit for your needs.

The Cons of Transunion Smartmove

Of course, no service is perfect, and there are some drawbacks that you should be aware of before you sign up for TransUnion SmartMove. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a situation you could have avoided.

Here are some of the main disadvantages of the service.

There’s a Learning Curve

TransUnion SmartMove is a fairly simple service, but there is still a bit of a learning curve. It may take some time to get used to the interface and figure out how to run the reports you need. Keep this in mind when moving forward.

The Service Isn’t Perfect

While TransUnion SmartMove is a great tenant screening option, it’s not perfect. The service isn’t 100% accurate, and it’s possible that you’ll miss something important if you rely on it too heavily. In some cases, this could lead to complications that are difficult to recover from.

What Are Transunion Tenant Screening Alternatives?

Although Trans Union SmartMove tenant screening can be a valuable resource, it’s not the only one available. So, it’s essential that you consider TransUnion SmartMove tenant screening alternatives.

One of the most notable is RentSafe. Listed below are the key features of the service.

Powerful Dashboard

RentSafe offers a powerful dashboard to its customers that allows you to access all of the information you need. Not only does this ensure that you do not overlook any fine details, but it can also save you time when searching for specific data.

As a result, this is one of the most notable features of the service.

Fast Load Times

No matter how many checks your service can run, it won’t mean much if you are held back by slow load times. Having your screening service load quickly will allow you to get more done in less time and improve your overall productivity.

Slow load times also come with the risk of crashes, which could set you back even further.

One-Click Approvals

Approving an application is as simple as clicking a button. This will help ensure that you can get your approval out within seconds. For those who manage a large number of properties, this is a benefit that you should never overlook.

Comprehensive Screening

The screening process involves many different nuances, such as rental history, criminal history, etc.

RentSafe can allow you to screen for all of these criteria concurrently, so you don’t have to worry about missing key details. Take this into consideration before making your decision.

Mobile Access

Being required to use a computer to access your screening data can be inconvenient. RentSafe provides mobile access to its clients, meaning you can access your data from virtually anywhere.

This could be the difference between whether or not you are able to maintain the level of productivity that you desire.

Property Managers Need to Take Advantage of the Best Tools

The above information will ensure that property managers make the decision that is best for them. From here, you can avoid obstacles that you would have otherwise encountered.

Want to learn more about what we have to offer? Get in touch with Rent Safe today to discuss your tenant screening process needs.

tenant screening

How to Streamline Your Tenant Screening Process

More than 116 million people rent their homes in the United States, more than at any other point in the past 50 years.

That’s great if you’re a landlord or property manager as it means you’re likely to get plenty of good applicants whenever there’s a vacancy in one of your properties.

But lots of applicants can translate into lots of time spent reviewing applications, showing the space, and conducting background checks. Good business owners are always looking for ways to make things more efficient to save time and money. The tenant screening process is one place where technology can help you do that while still offering opportunities to provide a human touch.

Let’s take a look at how you can use it to streamline the process.

Start With Good Communication

Clear and transparent communication from the beginning helps build a good relationship with your new tenant before you even know who it is. It makes it more likely you’ll get tenants you like that will stay for a long time.

But trying to talk with everyone to set expectations and keep them updated on where things stand quickly starts to become a huge time suck. Automating certain pieces of communication can help you save time and streamline the process.

Automation ensures every application gets the same information and that they get all the different pieces you need to provide them. You don’t forget to send anything, and you stay consistent to comply with various housing laws. With your various emails already written, you don’t have to do things from scratch each time.

So what should you automate in your messaging? Any piece that can be the same across applicants or doesn’t require any special information is fair game here. Good examples would include:

  • Status updates like application received or application accepted
  • Welcome packet for new tenant onboarding
  • Rejection notes for those you don’t choose

Application status emails should include details for the next step like when they can expect to hear from you with an acceptance or rejection. You can send the links they need to get tenant web access for them to sign your lease and submit their deposit in your portal.

Build Your Process

When you have a set screening process, it becomes easier to keep up with all the details because you don’t have to stop to think about what to do next. That keeps things moving and makes sure each step gets done. A good basic screening process includes:

  • Set and know your criteria
  • Have an application
  • Run background checks
  • Interview candidates
  • Select and notify the tenant
  • Notify those not selected

There are a few tricky spots here where you need to have to take care. Some locales have set housing rules that limit what you can ask for on the application, while others limit what you can consider when selecting a tenant. You also need to know what you can and can’t ask during the interview process under the Fair Housing Act.

Automation can help you navigate those waters if you have software that takes all of those rules into consideration. Easy to build applications, calendar scheduling for viewings and interviews, and default responses to inquiries take care of some of the repetitive parts of this process.

Putting your application online speeds up the time it takes to get the information into your management software and is filtered by your criteria. Your system can automatically do background checks and rate the reports for those that pass the first filter. Once it’s all set up, it can even send out update and rejection emails at the appropriate stages.

Choose Reliable Software

If you’re convinced automation can make your life easier, what do you do next? You want to choose the right software for your needs so it does make things easier and not more complicated.

Start by deciding just how comprehensive you want the package to be. If you only manage a few properties, something that collects applications and does screening might be all you need. Most property managers deal with a large number of units, so software that can run the entire process from listing to onboarding might be a better fit.

For most, a critical part of streamlining the process is a good organization. This means having a clear dashboard that offers up everything you need to know in one place. It should be easy to see when something needs your attention and keep the entire team on the same page with multi-user access to the data.

Auto-screening options allow you to do many of the automation mentioned here, but there’s more you can accomplish with them. For example, you might put the background check as the last step of the application so you get everything in one report rather than having to go back to do the checks. It’s especially a great tool for use with group applications.

Beyond that, look for an application portal that is transparent and makes a good impression. You also need to ensure the background checks are being pulled from trusted sources, and the pre-written text for items like adverse action letters covers what’s needed for your location.

Get the Most From Your Tenant Screening

Tenant screening plays a vital role in the rental business, but even with only a few properties, it can take up a lot of time. Streamlining the process ensures you don’t miss things or run afoul of fair housing laws. Automate communications and appointment scheduling to make it easier for you and potential tenants to get through all the steps efficiently.

Need help with applications and screening? Contact Rent Safe to discuss our tenant screening services for property managers and landlords.

remove evictions from tenant screenings

Eviction 101: Can You Remove Evictions from Tenant Screenings?

Estimates say there are about 1 million evictions each year in the US. Many people have a poor rental history, so you want to be careful when you review rental applications. 

If you’re a landlord, you know the importance of tenant screenings to find the right person to rent your property. Here’s some information on rental history and how to remove evictions from tenant screenings.

Tenant Screenings

There are several ways to discover if a tenant has a history of evictions. If they owed money, it will appear on their credit report if the landlord took it to a collection agent. 

You can call their previous landlord for a reference. Always check with several previous landlords as their current one may be happy to see them go. In some states, you can pull an eviction report depending on the laws in place.

Finding a Screening Service

If you’re a high-volume property manager, you understand the value of a simple process to screen your tenants. A tenant screening service allows you to run background checks on a potential tenant. Look for an online tenant screening platform that’s easy to use and gives you real-time results.

When evaluating an online screening service, test the dashboard to see how easy it is to add documents, co-applicants, and other relevant information. You want your service to provide information you can use to evaluate a tenant application.

Compliance Issues

Tenant screening reports are consumer reports. When you use a consumer report to decide on a potential tenant, you must follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Review your local state laws and federal laws on consumer reports to ensure you’re following eviction laws.

If you deny a rental, require someone to get a co-signor, ask them to pay a larger deposit, or pay higher rent than you would typically charge, that’s considered an adverse action.

When you take an adverse action, always notify the tenant in writing. It’s a way to let them know what is in their reports and how the information impacts them. 

How to Remove Evictions From Tenant Screenings

If you’re a tenant with a poor rental history, you might ask how to remove an eviction from your record. If you’re determined, there are three main ways to remove it.

Wait It Out

An eviction stays on the public record for seven years. After that, it may still appear, even though the time limit has passed. You may need to take additional steps to have your record cleared. These steps include taking the case to court or working on a settlement agreement.

Prove Wrongful Eviction

Tenants have rights, and you may feel you’ve been wrongfully evicted. An attorney specializing in local landlord-tenant laws can help. If you can show that your landlord didn’t follow the proper procedures during the eviction, they may advise that you take the matter to court.

You may be able to prove wrongful eviction if you can prove that you didn’t violate your lease. In that case, a court may decide to remove the eviction from your record. 

Form a Settlement Agreement

If the eviction was valid and you want to make amends, you may be able to have the notice removed from your public record. There are several steps you can take to give you the best chance of reaching a settlement agreement.

1. Pay Your Debt

If the reason for your eviction was non-payment of rent, you might be able to negotiate with your previous landlord. They may accept a payment of the amount you owed them in exchange for removing the eviction from your record.

They may be willing to settle for a lower amount in some cases. Be sure to get an agreement in writing before you pay the settlement.

2. Call Off the Collection Agent

Most outstanding debts end up with a collection agency, and the record will still exist with the credit bureau they remove it. Take your settlement agreement to the agent and prove that you’ve cleared the debt. This proof should be enough to clear the collection record.

3. Request Removal of the Notice

Ask the property manager to remove the eviction notice from tenant screening reports. This should be a part of the negotiated settlement, but you may need to follow up to have your record cleared.

4. Dispute The Eviction Notice

As a last resort, after you’ve done everything you can to clear your name, you can file a formal dispute. Raise the dispute with tenant-screening companies and the credit bureau. Once you’ve provided proof of settlement, they should clear your record.

Applicants With an Eviction Record

What do you do when you discover an eviction notice on a tenant screening report? There may be situations where you might consider renting to a tenant with a past eviction.

Ensure you aren’t renting to problem renters by taking some additional screening steps. Some of these steps may be adverse actions that require written notice to the tenant.

Ask for an Explanation

When the reason for the eviction wasn’t non-payment of rent, there may be personal factors at play. Ask how they resolved the problem and what steps they are taking to ensure that the same thing won’t happen again.

Check Their Credit Rating

Someone with a good credit score may be a good tenant. If they have a great job and a stable employment history you may decide to accept them.

Require a Guarantor

One option is to ask them to have a reliable person guarantee the rent. They would sign a document making them financially responsible if the tenant doesn’t pay the rent.

Another option is to have the applicant’s roommate co-sign the lease agreement. In either situation, be sure to run the screening process on the second person.

Ask for a Larger Deposit 

You may be able to ask for a larger deposit upfront to cover potential future damages. Be sure to check that a larger deposit doesn’t violate your local landlord-tenant laws before you take this step.

Obtain Additional References

Ask for personal references from reliable members of society. The applicant’s employer might be someone you can rely on if the applicant has worked there for a long time.

You could ask for a credit reference from a business they use regularly. They can assure you that the applicant is trustworthy and is able to make regular on-time payments.

In most cases, a property manager has to follow company policies. They may have restrictions on renting to someone with a past history of evictions. Private landlords can make a judgment call in these situations.

Tenant Screening: An Essential Service

If you weren’t convinced before, we hope you are now. A tenant screening service is a no-brainer, especially when you know it’s possible for a person to remove evictions from tenant screenings.

You need the support of a professional screening service to ensure your tenants are trustworthy. Contact Rent Safe today to discuss your tenant screening needs.

Texas Eviction Laws

Understanding Texas Eviction Laws and Tenant Background Checks

Millions of renters get evicted every year, and recent reports show big Texas cities like Houston and Dallas leading the list with the most eviction filings in the country.

No landlord wants to go through the eviction process with their tenants as it can get messy and take up a lot of time. But when the choice is between that or going without rental income, it’s an easy decision.

Texas eviction laws cover permitted reasons for evictions along with the steps you’ll need to follow. It’s critical to know the rules not just to avoid illegal evictions but also to keep from having to start the process over again if you miss a deadline.

Let’s walk through the eviction laws and look at how you might avoid going down this path to start with.

Reasons to Evict

Evicting a tenant in Texas starts with understanding the reasons you are legally permitted to evict. You aren’t permitted to evict without cause if your tenant is on a fixed-term lease, so you need a good (and well-documented) reason to start the process. Reasons you can evict include:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Failure to vacate after lease ends
  • Lease violations
  • Texas Property Code violations
  • Foreclosure of the rental property

Under Texas rental laws, tenants must get at least a two-day grace period before their rent is considered late and the landlord can charge a late fee. But there is no grace period required before the landlord can serve a notice to vacate for failing to pay the rent.

Late rent, lease violations, and code violations can all be remedied, which stops the eviction process as long as the remediation falls within the notice period. The period is determined by the property code or rental agreement.

Landlords sometimes attempt to evict tenants for other reasons, which can cause problems. This is especially true when the landlord simply considers the renter a pest for exercising their rights to file complaints or pursue legal action against the landlord. Neither of these is considered a valid reason for an eviction notice.

Texas law also states that landlords can’t remove their tenants themselves, nor can they try to force them to move without going through the eviction process. That’s considered a “self-help” eviction and can result in a lawsuit brought by the tenant. This includes retaliatory conduct like cutting off utilities or changing the locks.

Texas Eviction Process

Once you have a legal reason to pursue eviction, it’s critical to follow the process laid out in the Texas Property Code. Any time a step isn’t done properly, you have to start the process over. The basic steps in Texas include:

  • Notice posted
  • Petition filed and served
  • Court hearing and judgment
  • Writ of possession issued
  • Possession of property returned

Notice

The type of notice you post depends on the reason for evicting. Most of the differences revolve around the amount of time provided before the tenant has to vacate the property.

All notices must be in writing and served by delivery in person, placement on the property, or mail. The notice has to include all the important information to be considered valid and start the timer for vacating. This includes the reason for the notice, the final date and time for vacating, and a warning that the landlord can pursue legal action.

The notice could be the only step you need to take if the tenant vacates the property within the time posted.

Petition and Hearing

If the tenant doesn’t vacate, you would file a petition with the justice of the peace court, which can cost you $46-$100 in filing fees. The petition needs to detail all the pertinent identifying information, grounds for eviction, notice date, and delivery method, along with a few other things. Once it’s filed, the court issues a citation to the tenant at least six days before the eviction hearing.

The tenant can respond in writing or wait until the hearing. The hearing takes place 10-21 days after the complaint is filed and can take place before a jury. You should bring with you:

  • Copy of lease
  • Notice to quit or pay
  • Complaint filed with the court
  • Evidence or witnesses

If the tenant doesn’t show up, the court issues a default judgment for the landlord. A writ of possession — final notice to leave — is issued, and the tenant has 24 hours to vacate. If they don’t go, they can be forcibly removed at that point by the sheriff or constable.

Avoid Eviction Hassles With Screening

While the unexpected can happen and cause a tenant to get behind on their rent, proper tenant screening can help you avoid situations that end in eviction.

Good screening starts by setting your requirements, and prequalifying potential tenants against those. This could be through an initial phone call or by including your minimum conditions in your ad. These might include income, credit score, or lifestyle factors like pets or smoking.

A required application makes your process more formal and ensures you get all the information you need to conduct tenant background checks and verify income. The form also keeps you consistent with the questions you ask and the info you get.

The formal screening portion includes the background check and credit report. Financial stability and past rental history go a long way to figuring out if a person is at high risk of being a problem tenant whom you might have to evict someday.

Don’t Run Afoul of Texas Eviction Laws

Eviction is a word no landlord or tenant likes to hear, but times come when it’s the only course of action. Texas eviction laws exist to protect tenant rights, which means you need to know them well to ensure you stay within the lines. Make sure you understand the process and pay close attention to the various deadlines to ensure your eviction is legal.

While eviction filing fees in Texas are low, the process can be a drain on your time and energy. Contact us to find out how our customizable tenant screening can help you get a higher quality tenant in your property.

a landlord asking questions to prospective tenants

9 Questions to Ask Every Prospective Tenant (and a Few Not to Ask)

Property management is no walk in the park. Mistakes are expensive, and work is plentiful. One wrong move can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Finding a tenant who is a good fit is one of the most important tasks for a property manager. An ill-fitting tenant could potentially cause all sorts of trouble, financial and otherwise. Knowing the right questions to ask potential tenants is crucial.

Every property manager should have a set of questions ready for any new prospective tenant who comes along. They should be the same for everyone who wants to apply, which will undercut any potential discrimination claims. 

Asking the right questions first can save a lot of time and energy on criminal background checks and credit reports. Here are some ideas on the questions you should and shouldn’t be asking.

The Most Valuable Questions You Can Ask a Potential Tenant

The responses you get from specific questions will tell you a lot about your prospective tenant and whether they are a good fit for your rental. Craft your list of questions carefully, using trial and error to find what works best in your particular interview situation. Use the questions below as a starting point to see what fits your needs:

1. How Long Have You Been in Your Current Residence?

The ideal tenant, for most landlords, will sign a one-year lease or longer. Asking how long they’ve been in their current place lets you know if they move around a lot. You’ll be able to use this information and the application to see if there is a pattern of moving frequently. It’s also possible that you need a tenant who only wants to rent for six months or less at a time. Asking this question lets you gauge a tenant’s reliability and intent.

2. What Is Your Monthly Income?

Paying rent on time is a trait you want every tenant to have. The rule of thumb is that a tenant should spend no more than 30% of their income on household rent. Monthly income doesn’t tell a complete story, though. Make sure to consider any debt or lack thereof that will show up in a credit check. Don’t ask about specific sources of income, just a general amount to avoid privacy issues.

3. Why Are You Moving?

You want a solid answer to this question. It’s best if a tenant is moving to find a bigger place, changed jobs, wants to live closer to a relative, or even just loves the area. Keep an eye out for more questionable reasons such as disputes with landlords, complaints about the property, or any court proceedings in progress with previous landlords. These are red flags that indicate this could be a troublesome tenant.

4. When Can You Move In?

It might seem appealing if a prospective tenant can move in this weekend, but a closer look can raise more questions worth asking. Most standard leases take 30 days to terminate, so someone able to move in immediately may have been evicted, had a sudden job transfer, or is a victim of a natural disaster or domestic issues.

5. Can I Call Former Landlords and Employers for References?

Employment references can verify stability. A tenant who doesn’t want you to call their previous landlords or employers could have something to hide. Former landlord testimonials are better than current. A current landlord could be telling you anything you want to hear just to unload a bad tenant. Getting this information on your own prevents any forgery from occurring down the line.

a tenant moving into her new property with boxes

6. Do You Agree to a Credit and Background Check?

This one may be obvious, but if someone doesn’t want their criminal background or credit results revealed, it’s not a good sign. This problem solves itself, however. Require background and credit check consent with every application. You shouldn’t consider anyone’s application without them.

7. Are You Able to Pay a Security Deposit and First Month’s Rent?

There may be times when you’re tempted to negotiate for a portion of the security deposit or less than a month’s rent upfront. It’s always a bad idea. Nothing says starting off on the wrong foot quite like not having enough cash to get in the door.

8. How Many People Will Be Living in the Home?

There is usually less wear and tear on a property with fewer people on the lease. No more than two people per bedroom should be expected, not including an infant. Overcrowding is not only a health and safety risk but also probably illegal. Most counties legally limit the number of people allowed under one lease.

9. What Is Something That Could Keep You From Paying Your Rent?

This is another question that can give some pretty telling responses. Most people will respond with answers about job loss, severe injury, or a death in the family. If you get a more specific answer, such as school supplies or car payments, this prospective tenant may already be foreseeing trouble, and that means it probably won’t be long.

The fair housing laws prohibit asking tenants specific questions such as age, use of service animal, marital status, birthplace, bank account balances, or religious preferences. Keep your questions focused on your rental property and the specific situation you’re filling. Just be sure to refrain from any negative lines of questioning.

An Online Platform to Simplify the Application Process

A well-thought-out, strategically worded line of questioning can be a landlord’s best tool in the journey to find the perfect tenant. The Rent Safe platform is an economical way to streamline the tenant screening process for both property managers and tenants.

Our innovative approach allows landlords to create a custom application and monitor progress, while applicants can apply and upload supporting documents easily. Contact Rent Safe to see all the ways our platform can help simplify your rental applicant screening processes.

interior setting 5MFH8EM

A Complete Guide to the Top Tenant Screening Services

A Complete Guide to the Best Tenant Screening Services

Everyone strives to work with responsible tenants who pay their rent on time. Landlords and property managers must conduct thorough due diligence on their prospective tenants if they want to find the best possible applicants. 

Tenant screening services are helpful tools to make the screening and rental process easier and more thorough. They allow landlords to conduct background checks, view credit reports, and verify the applicant’s track record with previous landlords and employers. 

Having access to this information can help you make informed decisions about prospective tenants. There are several tenant screening services available that offer different features and vary in terms of price and expediency.

What You Need to Know About Screening Services

It’s not only legal to screen tenants, it’s also an encouraged practice among landlords and property managers. Accessing an individual’s personal information does come with limitations, however. You’ll want to be sure that any screening service you choose is compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). 

What kind of information does a tenant screening service provide? Most services offer a credit history, address and employment history, and Social Security number verification. More in-depth reports will include a full credit report and background check. Some services also have access to other features such as online rental applications and e-signature functions for completing the lease and other important documents.

The Top Tenant Screening Services

a landlord using tenant screening software

There are many screening services available, and each one is slightly different. A landlord or property manager should first decide what information they need most from a tenant. Is it worth it to pay more for a tenant’s full credit report, or will a basic overview suffice? Will you require background checks and any eviction history? 

Deciding on the information that’s most important to you will prepare you to move forward with selecting the right tenant screening service. Here are some of the top services currently available.

1. RentPrep

RentPrep hires FCRA-certified screeners to conduct manual screenings rather than relying on databases that may produce inaccurate information. It has thus built a strong reputation as a reliable screening service. Here are some highlights of RentPrep’s service:

  • Reports are compiled by in-house screeners
  • Phone, chat, and email customer support
  • Discounts for owners of 50 properties or more
  • Results typically available in an hour (during normal business hours)

 

RentPrep offers different levels of service, including a basic background check or a full credit report.

2. First Advantage

Like RentPrep, First Advantage hires professionals to monitor screenings for a high level of accuracy. It offers an array of comprehensive reports, including history details on rentals, landlords, and utility debt, along with criminal background checks across every state. Highlights of the First Advantage service:

  • Free online library of tenant screening documents
  • Choose any or all of the three credit bureaus for credit reports
    26 locations in 14 countries
  • Criminal records database updated daily 

 

First Advantage chose not to offer a standard pricing plan and instead will provide a price quote based on your unique needs and desired services.

3. SmartMove

SmartMove provides results directly from parent company TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus. It allows property managers and real estate agents the option to charge a tenant directly for their credit report and background check, a useful feature for an agent working with multiple properties. Three plans are available that offer various levels of service: SmartCheck Basic, SmartCheck Plus, and SmartCheck Premium. Highlights of the SmartMove service:

  • Results directly from a credit bureau
  • No setup fees, no monthly service charge
  • Manage multiple properties from a single account
  • Option to charge the applicant for the screening costs

 

Another benefit of this service is that tenants’ personal information is kept safe: Rather than disclose personal info directly to the landlord, the tenant fills everything out online and the results report is sent directly to the landlord or real estate agent for approval. 

4. Cozy.co

Like SmartMove, Cozy.co allows tenants to maintain control of their personal information. Tenants fill out their information online, and result reports are sent directly to the landlord or property manager. Tenants pay for their own screening, whether that is a background check, credit report, or both. Highlights of the Cozy.co service:

  • No setup or membership fees
  • In addition to screening, landlords can collect rent and manage communications through the platform
  • Option to charge tenants for screening service
  • Tenants handle their own personal information
  • Credit results are available instantly and background checks generally take two hours


Landlords can also use Cozy.co to collect rent payments, communicate on maintenance requests, and manage renter’s insurance and rent estimate reports.

5. MyRental

MyRental is owned by CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions, and although the company doesn’t use live screeners to verify information, their database has seven layers of quality control. It offers basic and premium packages, or you can purchase most reports a la carte without committing to a package. Highlights of MyRental:

  • Results typically available within an hour
  • A la carte pricing
  • Database is constantly updated
  • Efficient customer service


MyRental also gives each applicant a “Safe Rent Score” and a “Landlord Acceptance Rate.”

6. RentSafe

Designed by property managers, RentSafe offers a straightforward, user-friendly platform for both landlords and prospective tenants. In addition to tenant screening, renters can apply online and add co-applicants, co-signers, and references as well as upload any supporting documentation. Highlights of Rent Safe:

  • Easy-to-use software
  • Designed by property managers
  • Customized dashboard for renters and landlords
  • Real-time results
  • 5-Star, 24/7 Customer Support
  • Accessible on any device

 

Documents or other information uploaded by the prospective tenant are available for the landlord to review immediately, making the process more streamlined and less stressful. 

The benefit of most services is that you’ll be able to manage multiple applicants within one easy-to-use platform. Whichever service you choose, know that you’re handling personal information, so make sure you keep it as secure as possible.

An Online Platform that Gives Property Managers an Edge

Rent Safe simplifies every aspect of tenant applications and screening, making the process more transparent and organized for renters and landlords alike. Contact Rent Safe today if you’re ready to take your entire application process online to make it faster and easier.

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