Understanding Tenant Screening Reports

When you think about a tenant check, you may be thinking about a tenant credit report. But there are a number of other reports that are just as important.

No one renter check tool is superior, nor is there one "super-report" that will give you everything you need to vet your applicant.

If you've ever searched for the best tenant screening reports, you may have noticed that there are a number of different options for obtaining these reports. That's because the better companies recognize that landlords need flexibility -- different plans that will work in different rental situations.

The most familiar report, the tenant credit check, is designed to evaluate the applicant's income. This report allows a landlord to confirm a tenant's ability to pay rent, and to evaluate their payment history. It's good to know whether this candidate has a habit of paying their bills on time. The credit check is an overall picture of the applicant's financial health. This report can also be used to confirm employment, match the Social Security number to the applicant, and uncover previous addresses that may not have been mentioned in the rental application.

An eviction report runs the tenant's name through either a state or a national database of court records showing prior eviction filings. If you are convinced that an applicant has always lived locally, a state report should suffice. On the other hand, a national eviction report can expose an applicant who is attempting to wipe the slate clean by moving to a new location.

Criminal history checks are necessary to avoid landlord liability. If a dangerous applicant is allowed to rent a unit, and then repeats that criminal behavior, the landlord stands to lose. Victims may be able to sue for the injury by claiming that the landlord was negligent. That negligence is based on the failure to run a renter background check, which is considered to be the "reasonable" thing to do when you screen a new renter. Recently, many city governments across the country have started to fine landlords when police are called to a rental property. Landlords may be forced to evict a tenant who engages in criminal activities, and that costs profits.

None of these tenant screening reports are designed to be used exclusively. Rather, all need to be used in unison. Not only does each report show a different side to the applicant, but when you cross-reference overlapping information with other reports, and with the rental application, you can flag -- and eliminate-- a problem applicant.

The best tenant screening services don't stop there. They offer a number of other, specialized background reports. For example, Tenant Alert also offers the Previous Address Tenant History which can peg undisclosed previous addresses a candidate may be attempting to conceal -- a red flag that the applicant may have been booted out of a previous rental. The TeleCheck bounced check database is instrumental in catching applicants who have bounced checks in the past. The Trace Detail is a tool used by professional collection agents and skip-tracers to locate tenants, find pertinent personal information, and predict the location of assets.

The more information a landlord can garner about a prospective tenant the better. And automated reports make the task quick, easy and painless. You can't say the same about the eviction process.