The Best Tenant Screening Services for 2020

By Sonja November 3, 2020

Renting out a home or apartment sounds easy, but it can be quite a nightmare. You’re entrusting a major asset to a stranger. You never know what kind of people your new tenants are, what kinds of criminal history they might have, or even whether they can afford to pay the rent. You’ve got to moonlight as a private eye, investigating prospective tenants in the hopes of making a better choice.
Now there’s help. We’ve scoured the internet and discovered the best tenant screening services. These companies investigate applicants, verify the information on their applications, and help you select those who will prove to be trustworthy tenants.

  • Very affordable
  • Real-time screening
  • FCRA-certified agents
  • No live chat support
Price $18.95/mo
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  • Easy to use
  • Customizable
  • Live chat available
  • No SSN verification
Price $24.99/mo
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  • Very thorough
  • Fast report generation
  • No hidden fees
  • Weak customer support options
Price $25/mo
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  • Great for browsing listings
  • In-depth reports
  • SSN verification in basic plan
  • Expensive
Price $35/mo
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  • Easy to use
  • Fast reporting
  • Multiple sources
  • Some basic features available only with most expensive plans
Price $24.95/mo
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1. RentPrep

" Best All-in-All Tenant Screening Service "

  • Starts at:
    $18.95
  • Basic checks:
    SSN verification, address history, national eviction data, bankruptcies, judgments, liens
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion
  • Key features:
    Live screening, enterprise solution, podcasts and helpful articles
  • Support:
    Phone, email, fax

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Very affordable
  • Real-time screening
  • FCRA-certified agents
  • No live chat support

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Very affordable
  • Real-time screening
  • FCRA-certified agents
  • No live chat support
  • Starts at:
    $18.95
  • Basic checks:
    SSN verification, address history, national eviction data, bankruptcies, judgments, liens
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion
  • Key features:
    Live screening, enterprise solution, podcasts and helpful articles
  • Support:
    Phone, email, fax

Founded by Fidelis Screening Solutions, RentPrep is the favorite of many landlords across the country. With highly competitive pricing, lots of great features, and a strong emphasis on building a community, it’s easy to understand why.
RentPrep makes running background checks incredibly easy, requiring zero involvement from the prospective tenant. The company employs FCRA-certified agents who are empowered to review and verify information. RentPrep is associated with the National Apartment Association and other well-known organizations that help make its position in the industry more credible.

Among the five best tenant screening services we identified in our industrywide research, RentPrep stands out for its agreeable pricing model and feature-rich plans.

The basic plan costs $18.95 per applicant. It consists of Social Security number verification, address history, national eviction data verification, and checks for bankruptcies, judgments, and liens. For an additional $4, the company runs a nationwide criminal and sex offender search. A credit decision report costs an additional $9.95, while $10 gets you an income verification report.

A more thorough report is available with the SmartMove full credit report, which costs $38. Interestingly, this report doesn’t include checks for judgments and liens. That report will cost you another $4.95. That said, the cost of tenant screening services from RentPrep is still the best we’ve come across, making this service the most affordable. Landlords managing 50 or more properties can even get a big discount through an enterprise package that allows for mass screening and includes the services of a dedicated agent.

RentPrep gathers financial information from TransUnion. All FCRA-sensitive data is manually verified by FCRA-certified agents.

Contact options for customer service agents include phone, email, and fax. But the real strength of the company’s customer support is found in the Resources page on its website, which is packed with articles and FAQs, a comprehensive knowledge base that leaves no stone unturned.

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2. MyRental

" Best Tenant Screening Service with Flexible Plans "

  • Starts at:
    $24.99
  • Basic checks:
    Eviction history, previous address history, criminal and sex offender checks, terrorist alert
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes (Premium plan)
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion
  • Key features:
    Custom plans, reporting tool with risk assessment, terrorist alert

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy to use
  • Customizable
  • Live chat available
  • No SSN verification

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy to use
  • Customizable
  • Live chat available
  • No SSN verification
  • Starts at:
    $24.99
  • Basic checks:
    Eviction history, previous address history, criminal and sex offender checks, terrorist alert
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes (Premium plan)
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion
  • Key features:
    Custom plans, reporting tool with risk assessment, terrorist alert

MyRental is a top tenant screening service that’s built on the powerful CoreLogic knowledge base of properties, taxes, ownership, and occupancy. Security and up-to-date data are the benefits you get at MyRental, which features high quality-control standards and a unique pricing model that suits every need.

The $24.99 Basic plan consists of an eviction history, previous address history, criminal and sex offender checks, and even a terrorist alert check. A more detailed report that includes financial data costs $10 more. With the Premium plan you get a report on the prospective tenant’s credit score, an option for the tenant to pay the screening fee, and an option to compare the applicant’s score with state averages. The more expensive of MyRental’s tenant screening service plans is great for risk assessment, as the report shows how many landlords accepted applicants with a similar score in your part of the country.

If none of these plans seem right, you can choose the a la carte option, which lets you specify exactly which checks you’d like MyRental to perform. For example, if all you want is a rent history check, that’ll set you back $7.99. The options here are no match for the premium plan, but they’ll help you save money in the long run.

Like other services, MyRental bases its screening reports on TransUnion data. The scores the platform assigns to each applicant aren’t credit scores, however. Instead, the renter background check assigns a score that is intended to convey on how trustworthy the renter is. The higher the score, the better.

MyRental customer support is available via email, live chat, and phone Monday through Saturday. While the site doesn’t host a community section with blogs and podcasts, there are more than enough resources for landlords to learn from.

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3. SmartMove

" Best Tenant Screening Service for Detailed Reports "

  • Starts at:
    $25
  • Basic checks:
    Criminal background check, full credit report
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion
  • Key features:
    Resident score, advisory service, instant reporting, in-depth income verification
  • Support:
    Web form

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Very thorough
  • Fast report generation
  • No hidden fees
  • Weak customer support options

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Very thorough
  • Fast report generation
  • No hidden fees
  • Weak customer support options
  • Starts at:
    $25
  • Basic checks:
    Criminal background check, full credit report
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion
  • Key features:
    Resident score, advisory service, instant reporting, in-depth income verification
  • Support:
    Web form

Launched in 2010, SmartMove is TransUnion’s service for tenant screening. It’s a more complex and sophisticated service than the rest, with complex reports that provide a lot more information and deeper better understanding of the tenant’s financial situation. That’s why millions of people consider TransUnion the best tenant screening company.

Like MyRental, SmartMove generates numeric scores for each applicant. The SmartMove score is based on analysis of more than 500,000 records. Alongside the ResidentScore you will also get a recommendation regarding whether or not to accept the tenant’s application. That can really speed up the screening process.

SmartMove prices start at $25. The basic screening report includes the ResidentScore and the multi-state criminal background check. Need more than that? Choose SmartCheck Basic Plus for $38 and you’ll also get a detailed report that includes national eviction data and a full credit report.

The third and final tenant screening service plan from TransUnion is SmartCheck Premium. This one costs $40 and works more as an advisory service. It includes the same data as the other plans, but also allows you to query whether the prospective tenant’s credit behavior is valid, along with advice on whether or not to ask for more proof. Since this information is really just a report on how well the applicant sticks to a budget and spends smart, we say the additional cost is optional.

The source of all this data is TransUnion itself. Note that the credit report requires authorization from the applicant you’re checking, but the landlord credit check is a “soft” inquiry that doesn’t affect their credit score.

As for the scoring system, everything above 560 is a good score, and the reports are generated almost instantly. If you need help using the system, you’ll unfortunately have to use an emailed web form or learn by yourself using the SmartMove website’s FAQ pages.

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4. TurboTenant

" Best Up-and-Coming Tenant Screening Service "

  • Starts at:
    $35
  • Basic checks:
    Credit report, criminal record report, SSN verification, employment history, civil records, fraud indicators
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion
  • Key features:
    Free pre-screening, free listings for landlords, in-depth reporting, nationwide criminal reports
  • Support:
    Live chat, email

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great for browsing listings
  • In-depth reports
  • SSN verification in basic plan
  • Expensive

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Great for browsing listings
  • In-depth reports
  • SSN verification in basic plan
  • Expensive
  • Starts at:
    $35
  • Basic checks:
    Credit report, criminal record report, SSN verification, employment history, civil records, fraud indicators
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion
  • Key features:
    Free pre-screening, free listings for landlords, in-depth reporting, nationwide criminal reports
  • Support:
    Live chat, email

TurboTenant is among the newer companies on our list. In business for just five years, this company has grown to become one of the premier spots to get tenant insights. In addition to being one of the best-rated tenant screening service companies on the internet, it allows landlords to post their listings online completely free of charge.

In fact, a lot of services are completely free of charge at TurboTenant. In addition to rental applications that you can post online, you can even create brochures for your properties and get them passed along to popular real estate websites. Tenants can fill out pre-screening questionnaires that help the application process go more smoothly.

TurboTenant’s $35 basic plan is a bit costly, but it includes several reports. Credit reports consist of the renter’s credit score, Social Security number verification, employment history, civil records, payment history, fraud indicators, and more. The basic tenant screening services pricing includes an equally thorough criminal record check that covers both state and national databases.

If you choose the $45 TurboReport Pro plan, the screening will include residence history and eviction records, plus reports on failed rent payments, writs, and unlawful detainer offenses. There is no option for verifying current employment and income, but the reports are very detailed and provide a lot of good information. The data is pulled from databases maintained by TransUnion.

A quick Google search reveals that TurboTenant has received criticism for providing skimpy customer support. At the time of writing these tenant screening services reviews, the site has been updated. It now offers support via email and live chat along with an in-depth help center that acts like a big knowledge base.

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5. TenantAlert

" Best Tenant Screening Service for Credit Reports "

  • Starts at:
    $24.95
  • Basic checks:
    Credit report with a credit check, previous address history, TeleCheck verification
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion, Experian, Equifax
  • Key features:
    LeaseGuarantee, multiple credit bureaus, TeleCheck, national search
  • Support:
    Phone, live chat, email

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy to use
  • Fast reporting
  • Multiple sources
  • Some basic features available only with most expensive plans

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Easy to use
  • Fast reporting
  • Multiple sources
  • Some basic features available only with most expensive plans
  • Starts at:
    $24.95
  • Basic checks:
    Credit report with a credit check, previous address history, TeleCheck verification
  • FCRA-certified:
    Yes
  • Tenant payment option:
    Yes
  • Reporting source:
    TransUnion, Experian, Equifax
  • Key features:
    LeaseGuarantee, multiple credit bureaus, TeleCheck, national search
  • Support:
    Phone, live chat, email

It’s always great to have a lot of options. The folks at Application Research, the company behind TenantAlerts, seem to appreciate options. They’ve created a service with not two, not three, but four plans to suit the needs of a wide variety of landlords.

Even with so many options, you’ll never feel overwhelmed, as accessibility and ease of use are two of the most notable features of this service. The company has decades of experience, and it has developed one of the best tenant screening services you can sign up for today.

Let’s start with the Basic plan. It’s a $24.95 proposition that includes a credit report with a credit check, previous address history, and TeleCheck verification through a real-time database. For $5 more, you’ll get statewide eviction history and a

LeaseGuarantee analysis to determine whether your tenant should be considered eligible for a lease. If TenantAlert recommends that you offer a lease to a tenant whose occupancy ends poorly, the company will reimburse you up to $10,000 in case of damages, lost rent, or legal fees.

The most popular plan at this online tenant screening service costs $39.95. It adds a few more checks: a statewide criminal record check, terrorist alert, and a federal search for various offences.

The $49.95 Premier plan bumps the eviction and criminal checks to nationwide searches. It also includes Social Security number verification – something that we’ve seen offered even in basic plans from some other companies.

Whichever plan you choose, you have an option for the tenant to pay the fee.
One feature that puts this service above most of the best tenant screening companies is the choice of the credit bureau to run the credit report. All the other services we reviewed stick with TransUnion. At TenantAlert, you can also pick Equifax or Experian.

As for TenantAlert’s customer service, we judge it first-rate. You can contact friendly, knowledgeable, helpful support representatives via phone, live chat, and email. They’re available on weekdays.

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Our Methodology for Identifying the Best Tenant Screening Services

We’re living in a world in which the need for security permeates every aspect of our life. Whether it’s parental control software, insurance, virtual phone numbers, or home security systems, the market caters to each type of need. Tenant screening companies are one of them and they offer a bewildering array of reports and options. Evaluating them requires an objective apples-to-apples comparison.

We started our evaluations by identifying the information and services landlords need.

Criminal Background Check

First and foremost, you’ve got to know how trustworthy applicants are. Many landlords prefer to know whether prospective tenants have criminal records and how severe their crimes were. It’s one thing to have a couple unpaid parking tickets. It’s a whole lot worse if you discover an applicant has been involved in a violent crime.

In the past, the criminal portion of a tenant background check could take weeks as landlords consulted criminal records at the city, county, state, and national level. The ordeal could require expensive, time-consuming, in-person visits to review public records in government offices.

That drastically changed once services that offer tenant screening became widely available. All that hassle and running around has been replaced by easy-to-use websites that will run comprehensive criminal background checks for you.

Although documenting the prospective tenant’s criminal record is now the norm, tenant screening services don’t always deliver the same information. Some background check services consult government databases at all levels, while others report only state or nationwide criminal records.

Tenant screening reports are subject to regulation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, which specifies that certain consumer data can be reported only by certified reporting agencies. The best agencies are FCRA-compliant.

Credit and Employment

Once you’re sure your prospective tenants have steered clear of legal troubles, you’ll want to know whether they are likely to make rent payments. You’ll want to verify their employment and earnings. Employment history can tell you if they’re likely to remain employed. And a credit history is helpful too. If the applicant has a terrible credit score, that could indicate that they’ll have trouble paying rent.
The top tenant screening services provide a credit score and an overview of the applicant’s employment history. We check to see how detailed these tenant reports are and whether the service requires an extra charge. In too many cases, it’s part of a premium package.

Residence and Eviction History

The standard background check includes a residence and eviction history that tells you whether your applicant has been a good tenant in the past. A history of changing addresses frequently is a red flag. A history of legal evictions is 10 red flags. In the bad old days, you counted on applicants to give you the names and phone numbers of former landlords. Of course they excluded information about tenancies that ended on bad terms.

The rental background check results in a report detailing the applicant’s history of late rent payments, how long each residency lasted, and whether or not the tenant has received eviction notices from former landlords. Naturally, the more detail you get, the better.

Price

Tenant background checks don’t look expensive, but if you have lots of applications for the same property, they add up fast. That’s why we consider price a key criterion. Some sell screening services a la carte, while others offer screening as part of a larger property management package.

From free tenant screening to the most expensive premium plans, we evaluate each plan and its features. The goal is to find the best value, a balance between features and affordability. We also check for free trials and discounts on rental screening.

Additional Features and Efficiency

Those checks give us a pretty clear idea of which companies offer the best value in tenant screening – but we don’t stop there. The next piece of the puzzle: an assessment of each service’s efficiency and thoroughness.

For example, this is where we look at the depth and flexibility of reporting options. And we evaluate how long it takes for tenant screening search results to arrive. It doesn’t matter how good the screening service’s data is if it doesn’t arrive until after your applicant has already moved into someone else’s property.

Some of these services go above and beyond the usual, giving landlords much more than a simple report or two. You may get customizable letters to send to prospective tenants. You may get peace-of-mind through verification of the applicant’s Social Security number. Unusual and unique features help distinguish services from one another, and in our reviews we are careful to point them out.

Customer Support

Finally, the best tenant screening services for landlords can’t really be the best unless it provides great customer support. Not everyone knows how the screening process works, so you might need to contact the customer-service agents with questions. You might have billing problems or questions about a report. Maybe you’re having trouble connecting to the service’s website and you need information from the technical team.
Our evaluation takes into account the availability of customer support agents, the depth of their knowledge, and their attitude. If the service has other useful tools, like an informative FAQ page, we note that too.

Our Picks: The Best Tenant Screening Services

  • RentPrep
  • MyRental
  • TurboTenant
  • SmartMove
  • TenantAlert

FAQ

What do landlords use for background checks?

Most landlords go through rental history reports to discover how good a tenant the applicant has been in the past. Since we live in the internet age, landlords can use online services that pull information from credit bureaus and provide detailed reports on the prospective tenant’s likelihood of taking care of property and keeping up with rent payments.

How do I get a tenant screening report?

Just visit the screening company’s website and type some information about the tenant. You’ll be asked to provide the name and email address, and perhaps a phone number. The company will process the request, pull data from the credit bureau and federal databases, and provide a detailed report. With that document, you should be able to determine whether to extend a lease to your prospective tenant or not.

What does tenant screening mean?

Tenant screening is the process property owners and landlords use to evaluate prospective tenants. It’s a background check for renters, a compilation of different kinds of information that helps the landlord predict whether the applicant is trustworthy and financially able to pay rent. There is no uniform screening process; different landlords look for different information when evaluating potential tenants.

Can I run a tenant screening on myself?

Sure. If you’re looking to rent property, you can visit a tenant screening service, request an evaluation of yourself as a prospective renter, and get reports that you can share with landlords when you apply to rent a property. This saves the landlord both time and money. The best tenant screening services even generate private links for you to share with landlords, thus keeping your information secure online.