landlords - where do you do on-line credit checking?

bemilyApril 7, 2009

I've rented out a house for 8 years but never ran a credit check on someone. Can you recommend an on-line company and is there anything else i should know about this? I collected $20 from each adult to get this done. Thank you.

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I used to order them from a local brick & mortar agency. But now have my tenants order their own and submit them to me with the Application. They can be ordered from Equifax, Experian or Trans Union only. Must be an original color printout, no pages missing, no xerox copies, nothing altered and must be dated within 7 days of the application. I direct them to this site, it's the only one approved by the Federal Gov't for consumers to get their free annual report from each Bureau: AnnualCreditReport No gimmicks, no sign ups, no fees, just answer security questions that only the consumer themselves would know and the report is generated and can be printed or accessed online for about two weeks. If they choose to go elsewhere, or have a membership elsewhere, that's fine, as long as it's from one of the 3 Credit Bureaus. If they don't have a PC, no problem, they can use a public library PC for free.

I have them submit their own for three reasons:

1) Fraud protection(for me). Agency ordered reports show full bank account #s, full CC#s, full SS#, full loan #s. I don't need or want that much info. And I surely don't want it on hand if someone has their ID stolen. (We're small, only 3 homes, not a huge complex or anything.) When the applicant obtains their own report from site above, all pertinent numbers are blocked out except for the last 4 digits. So I can't see full bank account, SS#, etc.

2) Cost. It's free if they use the means described above.

3) Less hassle. The agency I used (and many others) have been forced to become very stringent in recent years due to ID theft. They must come inspect the office (mine's a home office), all reports must be stored in a locked safe or file that only I have access to (which they were anyway). I cannot show the consumer their credit report unless they are being declined (even tho they pay for it). I must destroy it after retaining it for one year. They have quadrupled their membership fee ($100) and started charging a $90 inspection fee annually (which essentially is them coming in and taking photos to show I've got the proper set up).

So far it's working fine. I put the info on how to obtain the credit report on my apps. They fill out the app, get their report, and return all of it to me. Then I can review it all at once, check references, etc. If I lease to them I simply staple the credit report to the back of the app and keep it in their file. If not, I return it to them with a rejection letter via Certified Mail, and put in the rejection letter that their report is being returned.

While we're at it, a few other quick easy screening methods I use from experience. Cell #s are not permitted for references on the App. Has to be a landline phone. (I'm amazed at how many people try to put down friends or neighbors as prior landlords due to something bad happening.) I then go to White and put the landline number in the reverse directory and make sure it matches up to the reference's name and address (that gets fudged too). I'll also go online to local County Auditor or Assessor, do a search of prior address listed, and make sure owner's name matches owner listed on app. If not, I search out a phone # for the person who is listed on tax records as the owner and give them a call. Twice in recent years I've spoken to owners who gave me a big red flag on an applicant who they had serious issues with and for whatever reason did not go to court (therefore no record would have shown in court docket searches). In this day and age, most Counties have their court dockets online. Once I have the app with name, D.O.B. and last 4 digits of Social, I search the local docket to see if there is past history of eviction, Property Judgment, convictions for domestic disturbance issues, or other convictions that might influence renting (passing bad checks, selling drugs from a residence, etc.). If they put down they have lived in other areas I check those County dockets as well. I also check Sex Offender registries.

All it costs is a little bit of my time, is very revealing, paints a pretty good picture of what kind of person the applicant is, and can save a lot of grief. ;-)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 11:55AM
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Thank you so much for the responses. I did what moonshadow suggested; asked the tenants to print their credit reports and I can give them their $40 back. I can always rely on That home site for good advice.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 10:46PM
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The American Apartment Owners Association (a nationwide landlord association) is the biggest scam around. They wound up sticking me for a good bit of money. I signed up for their website and then found out that there aren't any state specific forms so I asked for a refund and they just said too bad. Wound up going to the BBB with them and still fighting it. Here is my review of AAOA, FRAUD! SCAM! Bad Business People!

Now, for the good, like the poster above mentioned, and the tenant screening that goes along with it is awsome. You can screen people easily and customize forms in lots of ways. The generic forms are all free and easy to use. I HIGHLY recommend them or any but AAOA.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 1:07PM
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