The quality of residents determines the quality of your returns. 

If you sign a lease agreement with a resident who’s unwilling or unable to pay their rent on time every month, you can expect more headaches and less cash flow. Filing for eviction costs time and money, and you miss out on months of rent revenue. And that says nothing of the damage that disgruntled residents leave behind on their way out. 

How do you prevent those losses and headaches? With thorough renter screening, of course — combined with rent-default insurance

But you have dozens of options on the market to run screening reports. So what is the best screening service?

We’ve rounded up some of the most reliable tenant verification services on the market, for mom-and-pop landlords up through larger property management companies. 

1. Smartmove by Transunion

Transunion’s SmartMove platform works particularly well for solo landlords who need easy, occasional tenant credit check services. 

That’s because the reports are technically ordered by the applicant, not the landlord or manager. As such, you don’t need to become authorized to unilaterally run credit reports. You avoid all the bureaucratic hoops that authorization requires of you, such as undergoing a site inspection. 

When you request the reports, you can also select who pays for them. 

Smartmove boasts of its “ResidentScore” capability to predict tenant behavior better than credit scores can. Aside from the usual credit, criminal, and eviction reports, they also provide income insights where you can work out if your prospective tenant will be able to pay on time.

For $25, you get the applicant’s ResidentScore and criminal background check. For $40, you also get to view the applicant’s credit report and eviction history report. At the full $45 level, you also get Transunion’s Income Insights report, estimating (you guessed it) the applicant’s income.

2. Avail by Realtor.com

Many of the “one-stop shop” property management platforms plug into Smartmove to offer tenant screening services. Avail is no exception. 

Bought by Realtor.com in 2022, Avail offers a slew of other property management services. Most obviously, Realtor.com brings a powerful platform for marketing vacant units for rent. But they also offer rent price analysis, online rent collection, maintenance tracking, digital lease agreements, and more. 

Landlords and property managers can use either a free account or pay $9 per unit each month for premium goodies like customizable rental applications and leases, and the ability to create marketing websites. Applicants pay for the tenant credit check services.

3. Apartments.com (formerly Cozy)

Likewise, Apartments.com bought Cozy and its full suite of free rental management tools. These include comprehensive tenant reports — and, of course, excellent reach for marketing vacant rental units.

Apartments.com provides an all-in-one suite of property management tools that make the rental process simpler. There is a dashboard for landlords where you can accept and screen potential tenants. You can also create and sign leases, as well as accept and manage payments online.

Like Avail, Apartments.com uses Smartmove’s service to provide its landlord screening tools. Expect the typical identity verification, tenant credit report, criminal background check, eviction history report, and Income Insights report.

Applicants pay $29 to submit their screening reports through Apartments.com. 

4. E-Renter

Want a similar rental background check that isn’t Smartmove and also doesn’t require an on-site inspection?

E-Renter offers tenant screening packages and reports that are 100% accessible online. It works just like Smartmove, where the property owner or manager requests the tenant screening reports and the applicant approves them.  

Unlike Smartmove, the landlord or manager typically pays for the reports from E-Renter. For $21.95, you get a criminal background report and identity verification. Add another $10 to view applicants’ credit history ($31.95 total), or another $15 to also view their name history, address history, and “Rent Check Advisor” (an alert of whether their bank account history is negative). 

The applicant also pays an extra $2.49 for the two higher-level tenant screening packages that include their credit report. 

E-Renter focuses exclusively on quality lease applicant screening, but they’re part of the larger ResidentIQ ecosystem that includes a range of services for property management firms. They provide live phone and email support.

5. American Apartment Owners Association

The American Apartment Owners Association enjoys a great reputation for some of the top rental background checks in the business. They use a similar model, where the applicant authorizes the screening reports so you don’t need to undergo a site inspection. 

While they do offer premier renter screening bundles like Smartmove and E-Renter, AAOA also lets you pick and choose individual screening reports. Individual reports range from $4.99 to $21.99. 

For $19.99, you can order either a credit report and identity verification or a nationwide criminal check and eviction history report. Bundles that include more reports range from $29.99 to $49.99. 

Like Smartmove, you select who pays for the renter background checks.

6. Innago

Innago offers an intuitive, one-stop-shop landlord software platform. Similar to the tenant screening services outlined above, they use soft credit pulls that don’t ding the applicants’ credit. Innago charges $30-35 for credit, eviction history, and criminal history reports, and you can optionally pay another $10 for an income verification report. 

In addition to optimal renter background searches, Innago also offers a full suite of property management tools. Services include advertising vacant units, online lease agreement signing, online rent collection, maintenance requests, and expense tracking. 

Consider it a top renter screening platform for both landlords and small to mid-size property managers.

7. First Advantage

First Advantage serves larger property managers and companies rather than solo landlords or managers. They boast proprietary databases, high-quality and regularly updated public sources, and expert customer service.

They provide many types of background check services for all industries, not just property management. Expect an on-site inspection because First Advantage lets you pull consumer credit reports without the applicant initiating it.

Aside from their broad scope of services, they also have a library of white papers and datasheets to provide landlords with references. They also provide a human review process to avoid false positives.

8. LeaseRunner

LeaseRunner provides an all-in-one service for landlords. They have tenant screening services, online rental applications, state-specific lease documents, e-signatures, rent payment collection, and more.

You select who pays for the screening reports. Tenant credit reports cost $23, criminal reports cost $17, eviction reports cost $14, and the payroll verification and cash flow report cost $10.

9. RentPrep by Roofstock

RentPrep offers an easy-to-use interface that makes it simple to screen tenants. 

Like many competitors, they offer Smartmove screening report bundles. But unlike others, they also offer an alternative set of screening reports.

The RentPrep Background Check ($21) includes an eviction check, SSN verification, and list of any bankruptcies, judgments, or liens. You can add a nationwide criminal check and sex offender registry search for an extra $6, and an income verification report for $10. 

Another add-on includes a “credit decision report” for $11, which does not require the applicant’s authorization. But it only includes a credit score range, not an exact FICO score. 

Turnkey property platform Roofstock bought RentPrep in 2022. As you can see, the property management software industry has shifted into a consolidation phase. 

10. RentSpree

While RentSpree uses Smartmove for its renter screening reports, it does also feature other useful tools for property owners and managers.

The platform offers online rent payments, marketing for vacant units, and a rent estimate tool. Perhaps most interesting, RentSpree integrates with the multiple listing service (MLS) for real estate agents. 

As for screening report costs, RentSpree charges $39.99 for the full credit report, nationwide criminal report, eviction report, and rental history report. For an extra $10 ($49.99), you also get an income estimate, automated reference requests, document uploads on the platform. The applicant pays these fees.  

11. Appfolio

For mid-size and larger property management companies, Appfolio offers a full suite of management tools. 

Appfolio does require an on-site inspection, and lets you pull credit reports without the applicant clicking an approval link. They charge $15 for a bundle including the applicant’s credit report, rent payment history report, and eviction history report. For an extra $5 ($20 total), you can pull the applicant’s criminal background report. Property management agencies doing high volumes of reports can qualify for discount pricing. 

As an enterprise-level service, Appfolio also offers everything from marketing to leasing to accounting to staffing support and more. 

12. Buildium

Another enterprise service for larger property management firms, Buildium does just about everything. Property managers can syndicate rental listings, e-sign lease contracts, collect rents, manage all rental property accounting, generate property websites, and integrate with other platforms through APIs.

And, of course, they provide resident screening reports. The report pricing varies based on your monthly membership level — again, Buildium serves larger property managers, not individual landlords.

How to choose the best tenant screening service for you

Now that you have a better sense for the best tenant background checks on the market, choose which one would best fit your needs. Consider these factors when choosing a tenant screening service:

  • Is there an online rental application that the tenant can complete from their computer or smartphone?

  • Can you choose who pays the tenant screening fee? If not, does the platform charge the party you want charged?

  • Does the tenant screening platform require an account with a monthly fee?

  • Does the criminal background check report show the prospective tenant’s past convictions on both the state and national levels?

  • Does the rental history report indicate the previous locations where the prospective tenant lived and for how long, including information about eviction history?

  • Do you have to undergo a site inspection in order to run renter credit reports?

  • Are there different ways to receive the tenant screening report, such as an email link or by logging into an online portal?

Don’t lose money to unpaid rents & evictions

The greatest threat to landlords’ cash flow is unpaid rents, followed by a costly eviction and vacancy. 

Protect your investment property’s cash flow with a combination of thorough tenant screening and rent default insurance. You can also explore zero-gap renters insurance

When you sign a rental agreement, you literally hand over the keys to an investment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Would you give a stranger the login to your investment brokerage account? Not without screening them carefully — do the same for your investment properties.