What Do Landlords Look For When Screening A Tenant

What Do Landlords Look For When Screening A Tenant

As an independent landlord in San Diego, tenant screening is the backbone of my business. It is an essential tool that allows me to thoroughly vet potential tenants for my rental properties. In my experience, utilizing accurate landlord tenant screening has been indispensable in preventing future complications.

What Do Landlords Look for When Screening a Tenant?

The key to meticulous tenant screening lies in risk minimization. Placing the wrong tenant could result in persistent issues ranging from property damage to outstanding rent and, in worst-case scenarios, legal problems. My priority is not merely filling vacancies; it's cultivating a sustainable rental business.

When I screen tenants, credit checks are one of the vital steps I take. Studying an applicant’s credit history gives me insights into their financial behavior. If the tenant's history reveals late payments or bankruptcy, it could indicate possible rent defaults in the future.

What Info Do Landlords Screen When Screening a Tenant?

  1. Credit Checks: Landlords commonly review credit scores to assess an applicant’s likelihood of paying rent on time. A strong credit history indicates financial responsibility, while late payments or bankruptcy may raise concerns about future rent defaults.

  2. Background and Eviction Checks: Beyond credit scores, background and eviction checks are essential. These helps uncover any prior evictions, serious criminal records, or legal battles related to rent payment or property damage. 

  3. Employment Verification: Verifying an applicant’s employment ensures they have a stable income to cover rent consistently.

  4. Landlord References: Speaking to previous landlords provides insights into the applicant’s behavior, reliability, and track record as a tenant.

  5. Reason for Leaving Previous Residence: Understanding why an applicant left their previous rental can reveal valuable information about their rental history.

  6. Tenant Demeanor: During interactions, landlords observe how applicants communicate and present themselves. Professionalism and respectfulness matter.

  7. Lifestyle ChoicesWithout being biased, landlords might take into account lifestyle aspects like smoking habits, pet ownership, or noise sensitivity when evaluating a potential tenant’s fit.

Furthermore, landlord-tenant screening isn't just about financial stability and criminal records. It is equally important to verify an applicant's employment and seek references from their previous landlords. These checks provide insights into the prospective tenant's reliability, consistency, and track record as a respectful tenant.

Best Tenant Screening Services for Small Landlords

1. RentPrep offers a robust tenant screening service designed to help landlords make informed decisions about potential renters.

Key Features:

  • Comprehensive Screening Packages:
    RentPrep provides various tenant screening packages that offer detailed insights into a tenant's background. These packages include credit reports with scores, nationwide eviction reports, judgments and liens, bankruptcies, and nationwide criminal and sex offender searches.

  • Easy-to-Use Interface:
    The user-friendly interface makes it simple for landlords to quickly and efficiently screen tenants. This ease of use ensures that landlords can process applications without unnecessary delay.

  • Community Support:
    It offers a supportive community through its Facebook group of over 10,000 landlords. This platform allows property managers to share experiences, ask questions, and gain insights from peers.

  • Landlord Forms:
    Also provides a wide range of landlord-specific forms to help manage properties and processes effectively. This includes rental application forms, lease agreements, and other essential documents.


RentPrep's pricing is competitive, with packages starting at $21 per report. This affordability makes it accessible for landlords managing multiple properties or those new to the rental busines.

2. TransUnion SmartMove is a game-changer for independent landlords, providing comprehensive tenant screening services that were once only accessible to large property management companies. This convenient, online service allows property owners to make informed decisions quickly and efficiently, thanks to its robust features and easy-to-use platform.

Key Features

Comprehensive Reports

SmartMove offers a variety of in-depth reports that cover every aspect of tenant screening:

  • Credit Checks

  • Criminal Background Checks

  • Eviction Checks

  • Income Insights

  • ResidentScore®, a proprietary scoring model that predicts rental eviction risk 15% better than traditional credit scores.

Fast and Convenient

One of the standout features of SmartMove is its speed and convenience:

  • Landlords can create accounts and start screening tenants within minutes.

  • Reports are delivered in a matter of minutes after the applicant verifies their identity.

  • Everything is processed online, making the service entirely paperless.

Flexible Payment Options

SmartMove provides flexibility in payment options:

  • Landlords can choose to pay for the screening themselves or have the tenant cover the cost.

  • There are no memberships or subscriptions required; you only pay for the reports you need.

Affordable Pricing Packages

SmartMove offers three distinct pricing packages to suit different needs:

  • SmartCheck Basic: $25, includes ResidentScore® and Criminal Background Report.

  • SmartCheck Plus: $40, adds Credit Report and Eviction Related Report to the Basic package.

  • SmartCheck Pro: $45, includes all features of Plus along with an Income Insights Report.

Benefits for Both Landlords and Tenants

For Landlords

  • Access to accurate and comprehensive tenant information enables better decision-making.

  • The process is quick, with no waiting periods or setup fees.

  • The ResidentScore® provides a more accurate prediction of rental eviction risk.

For Tenants

  • Tenants can consent online to share their reports with the property manager, ensuring their data is secure.

  • They receive a copy of their reports, promoting transparency.

3. TurboTenant: The Ultimate Solution for Landlord Screening

As a landlord, finding reliable tenants who respect your property and pay rent on time is crucial. TurboTenant offers a comprehensive solution to streamline this process, ensuring that landlords can make informed decisions and safeguard their investments.

Key Features 

Comprehensive Tenant Screening

TurboTenant facilitates in-depth evaluations of prospective tenants, providing landlords with essential information to mitigate risks. The tenant screening report includes:

  • Credit History: Understand the financial responsibility of potential tenants.

  • Eviction Records: Identify any past eviction issues.

  • Criminal Background Checks: Ensure the safety of your property and other tenants.

  • Fraud Indicators: Detect any fraudulent activities.

  • Income Insights: Available with the Premium plan, offering a detailed financial overview.

Compliance with Fair Housing Laws

TurboTenant supports legal compliance by adhering to Fair Housing Act guidelines in its screening criteria. This ensures that all tenant evaluations are conducted fairly and legally.

Property Management Features

Beyond tenant screening, TurboTenant offers a suite of property management tools:

  • Rent Collection: Simplify the process of collecting rent.

  • Lease Agreements: Create and manage lease agreements seamlessly.

  • Maintenance Requests: Streamline maintenance management.

  • Accounting: Keep track of financial records efficiently.


TurboTenant stands out for its affordability, especially when compared to other services like AppFolio. While AppFolio requires a minimum monthly spend of $298, TurboTenant offers a Premium plan for just $129 per year, providing significant savings for landlords.

User-Friendly Experience

TurboTenant ensures a hassle-free experience with no tricks or trials. Landlords can sign up for a free account and start using the service without the need for a credit card. This ease of access makes it an attractive option for both new and seasoned landlords.

Despite its profound importance, tenant screening can be quite time-consuming, especially when there are multiple applications. For independent landlords like myself, I strongly recommend enlisting the aid of a dependable tenant screening service. These services not only streamline the process but also provide comprehensive, accurate reports, saving me time and energy.

Accurate tenant screening is a protective measure for my property investment; it also fosters a structured and agreeable rental environment. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this proactive method has been instrumental in minimizing risks, allowing me to thrive in the rental market as an independent landlord.

Learn more about TurboTenant, here!

Check out RentPrep website!

Learn more about Transunion SmartMove! 

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