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In the landlording game, tenant screening isn’t just important, it’s the entire ballgame. With a great tenant, you might forget your rental even exists outside of the rent checks that arrive like clockwork for years — and when they finally depart, they return your property in pristine condition.
On the other hand, a bad tenant can make your life a nightmare. Late or missed rent payments (and you have bills to pay), neighbor complaints, constant demands, and even police visits. If you have to evict, say goodbye to thousands of dollars, only to reclaim the keys to a trashed property.
Fortunately, bad tenants tend to have a history of bad tenancy and other behavior. A tenant background check can turn up evictions, foreclosures, late rental payments, bankruptcies, and even criminal records. Wouldn’t it be nice to know all of that before handing over the keys to your valuable asset?
In other words, running a tenant background check is not optional for the conscientious landlord, and fortunately, it’s easy and doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can pass the entire expense off to the aspiring tenant.
Here are our picks for the three best free (or freemium) web apps you can use to screen your tenants.
TenantCloud is another competitor in the end-to-end property management software space. While not technically free, it includes a “Free Trial Forever” feature good for your first 75 units, ideal for beginner or small-portfolio landlords.
In addition to tenant screening by TransUnion with the fees passed on to the tenant, TenantCloud’s renter portal and landlord portal go the extra mile in terms of security, with 256-bit encryption and daily data backups available to authenticated users. TenantCloud also has a dedicated mobile app for both iOS and Android.
SmartMove by TransUnion
SmartMove lets you go directly to the source. TransUnion, one of the “big three” credit bureaus, operates this online tenant screening portal.
TransUnion maintains credit and financial record files on every American. So if you get your “credit pulled” by a lender or lessor, they certainly query TransUnion. Likewise, if your prospective tenant has a dark background, it will appear on their TransUnion report.
You can refer your prospect directly to SmartMove and pass the expense on to them, but you also don’t even need to create an account to use SmartMove, making it even more convenient and low-commitment.
Note that Federal law prevents some criminal records from being disclosed to TransUnion, and SmartMove cannot offer criminal background checks in Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
takes a crack at being a completely free, full-service property management app, and it has gained a significant footprint in the industry with over 400,000 users.
It has a few “freemium” extras, but one of the included free features includes the ability to collect background checks from your tenants, with the expense passed on to them.
TransUnion performs the tenant check. In addition to tenant screening services, TurboTenant offers many valuable features, including an online payment portal, a renter’s insurance portal, and useful integrations.
It isn’t as robust in its features offering as most paid property management platforms, but it’s free and suitable for beginners.