Can You Rely on your Tenant Screening Reports?

Determining if you’re getting the most accurate and complete background screening information is essential when avoiding bad residents. While price point will always factor into your decision, ultimately you want your resident screening to be reliable. As your first defense against negligent rental payments, property damages, and even criminal activity, knowing what qualities generate good screening reports is vital.

Criminal Checks are not always the same

You use the information on your applicant’s criminal background check to make informed rental decisions all the time (and if you don’t currently receive criminal data, you should), but what makes that information dependable? Above all, you want to know how in-depth the screening company goes into collecting the criminal information. For example, the criminal information on your reports should be taken from databases nationwide (all 50 states plus Washington D.C.). It should account for jail and prison records, check for wants and warrants, and make sure your applicant isn’t on the terrorist watch list (also known as OFAC). For the safety of your multifamily community you should also be looking for whether an applicant is a registered sex offender, and how severe their crimes may have been.

Unfortunately some jurisdictions do not provide electronic records or purposely mask critical personal identifying information such as the date of birth.  Consider also ordering a county level criminal search from if your applicant lives in such areas.

Sergey Umrikhin, a landlord in Miami, learned the hard way when he unknowingly accepted new tenants that were wanted by the international police agency, Interpol. According to the Miami Herald, the background screening report failed to pick up on this, stating a green highlighted “All Clear. No criminal or eviction history found” on the report. In addition to choosing a background screening company that checks nationwide criminal databases, be aware of the other databases are being used to screen your applicants. Consider using a screening company, like CIC®, to scan your future residents through OFAC, Interpol, and your state’s Dept. of Justice sex offender registry.

Not All Credit Scores Are the Same

When it comes to finding a trustworthy background screening company, you’re going to want to pay attention to what scoring model they use. Unfortunately there is a plethora of dubious credit scoring models that differ on how they analyze credit data and what their scoring formula is. Non-standard screening models not only provide inconsistent scoring information, but they can possibly skew the score to fit that company’s interests. Confirm that your tenant screening company is utilizing a verified and regulated screening model like FICO  (The Fair Issac Company).

Identity Red Flags Such as Information Inconsistencies

Ultimately, your resident’s screening report is only effective when your applicant’s identity matches up with the person on the report. While this might be fundamental, there’s always a chance the rental prospect might be falsifying their personal information. When comparing background screening companies, double check that the basic information on their application (like name, date of birth, and previous addresses) match up with the applicant’s background screening report. On the flip side, there’s always a chance that your applicant might be using another person’s identity to apply to your property. To ward off fraud, your resident screening company should also scan your applicant’s information for known criminal aliases.

In addition to checking to see what criminal databases your applicants are being scanned through, verifying that a standard credit scoring model is being used, and making sure that the information on the report matches, your screening company should be pulling eviction history from a large (and FCRA compliant) database. This will make your applicant’s background report more accurate, enable you to make informed rental decisions, protect your property from potential bad tenants, and ultimately it can significantly reduce your liabilities.

Learn whether you are missing any key information on your applicant’s reports by getting a custom free consultation from!

How did you determine what background screening company to go with? How did you ensure that their applicant information was reliable? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below, and be sure to subscribe!

Check out these other great articles:

Insure Proper Access to Credit Data

The Difference Between SSN and TIN (Infographic)

HUD Bans Using Arrest Records

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Becky Bower is the Content Strategist here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in English, with a focus in creative writing, from CSU Channel Islands. Her biggest weakness is cake and favorite superhero is Batman.

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