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As an independent landlord it can become difficult to make educated leasing decisions. Large property management companies have access to an array of tools that allow them to screen their potential tenants. Therefore, making it easy for them to have all the information they need to make an educated decision about who they are leasing to. TransUnion tenant screening evens the playing field a little bit. Giving independent landlords access to the same screening tools and information that large property management companies have. 

The Process 

In order to begin the process an email must be provided by the potential tenant to you. Once that email address has been provided, the process is pretty simple and usually goes like this:

  1. You make a renter screening request using the email address provided by the potential tenant. If you are new to using TransUnion SmartMove tenant screening, then you must make an account on the platform first.
  2. Then, the renter is sent the screening application request via email. They then choose to accept or decline the screening. If the renter is new to SmartMove, they must make an account first.
  3. When the renter accepts the request, it initiates the release of their credit and criminal record to you through SmartMove. If the renter declines the request, the application is cancelled. Regardless, information such as the renter’s social security number will never be released. 
  4. If the renter chooses to accept the request, you then receive the renter’s credit and criminal history. As well as an evaluation and leasing recommendation by SmartMove.
  5. Lastly, the renter is notified of your decision. 

Tenant Involvement 

TransUnion’s tenant screening is not for the landlord that needs to be in control of every step of the process. The renter is involved in providing information, and allowing the screening process to continue. The renter also plays a part in how quickly the screening moves. If they receive the email and instantly take the necessary steps on their side, you have access to the report within 15 minutes. But, if the email ends up in their junk mail, or they take weeks to open it, the time frame in which you receive the report will be delayed. 

Many landlords don’t look at this feature as a bad thing. The mentality is that if the renter can not complete the necessary steps on their end in a timely manner, then they reconsider renting to them. Obviously the advantage of no tenant involvement is that you get to control the pace of the process. Which can be a major advantage if you are needing to fill a rental quickly. Remember though, it is possible to see the tenant involvement as an addition to the vetting process. 

Pricing 

There are three different packages when using TransUnion’s tenant screening. The first is called SmartCheck Basic and is $25 per screening. This package includes a credit-based resident score and a national criminal background report. Many landlords do not consider this package worth the cost. Due to the fact that it does not include an eviction report. One of the most valuable pieces of information a landlord can know is a potential renter’s eviction history. 

The second package is called SmartCheck Plus and is $38 per screening. This package includes the credit-based resident score, and national criminal background report. As well as a full credit report, and national eviction report. 

The last package is the SmartCheck Premium package and is $40 per screening. SmartCheck Premium includes access to the same information as SmartCheck Plus, with the addition of income insights. Income insights is a new product that was created by TransUnion. It looks to see if a person’s credit behavior aligns with their self reported income. While this sounds great, income insights is largely based on credit behavior. Therefore, if your potential tenant is a big saver the algorithm income insights uses will likely tell you they make less than what they reported. 

Pros

SmartMove is one of the best instantaneous data report options available. There are a few pros to using SmartMove that many landlords consider well worth the price. 

TransUnion is a recognized and reputable company. TransUnion is the go-to company for many real estate teams when looking for credit reports. They use a more real estate friendly version of the FICO score model than their competitors. This is because it does not inflate credit scores. The fact that SmartMove is a TransUnion tenant screening product is enough to at least look into it.

Full credit report and credit score is given to you. If you do not want a pass/fail metric, and would like to see an actual credit score, SmartMove is the way you want to go.

Option is available for tenants to pay for the screening. While this is not a feature exclusive to SmartMove, it is a nice option to have. 

Cons 

TransUnion’s tenant screening has many great elements to it, but there are a few cons that are highly worth considering. 

Does not provide criminal data for select states. Five states have decided not to allow instantaneous access to their criminal data. Those states include: Colorado, Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Massachusetts. These states have realized that they can charge consumer reporting agencies, like SmartMove, to access their criminal data. Due to this, SmartMove does not provide landlords with criminal data from those states. If your potential tenant is living in, or has ever lived in one of those states, you will not have information on if they have committed a crime there. 

Instant data often has a few gaps. Database criminal reports have the tendency to in inaccurate. This is because courts and sources are not required to share their records with any particular database. It is easy to find situations where criminal activity is recorded in one database and not another. Eviction records can also be spotty when receiving instant data. There are many instances where an eviction was filed and appears on a judgement search, but that same eviction does not appear on an eviction search. The only way to get around the gaps in information is to search multiple databases. This is something that an instant report outlet that is plugged into one database can not do.

Is TransUnion’s SmartMove Right for You?

It all depends on what you are looking for when getting information on your potential renters. SmartMove is a product many landlords trust and use often, but there is room for potential inaccuracies. The only way to get around that is to use a service that does not offer an instant report, and has the ability to search multiple databases. Even then, there is a little room for inaccuracies to occur.

Whatever service you choose to use when vetting your potential renters, you are justified in choosing. At the end of the day, it is your investment on the line.

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