Because many landlords check applicants’ credit, your credit history could make a big difference in your next apartment search.
For would-be renters, the credit-check process may seem mysterious. If you’re wondering what landlords scrutinize when they check your credit, here’s an insider’s look, along with strategies for landing a place to live.
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How landlords and property managers check credit
A credit check can mean a lot of different things. It ranges from finding out whether a tenant meets a landlord’s internal criteria to poring over pages of account histories.
Janet Akin, a property manager in San Jose, California, said she uses a tenant screening service called e-renter.com to screen applicants for her clients who want to rent their properties.
“As a property manager, you have a fiduciary duty to your clients,” Akin said. “You have to go through the data and pull as much as you can.”
Akin described running background and credit checks on potential tenants, looking at credit scores as well as social media, county records and bank statements, among other things, to check for consistency.
Here are a few other ways landlords and property managers may check credit:
Organizations such as the National Association of Independent Landlords offer tenant credit reports to landlords for a fee. Depending on the association, these checks may count as hard inquiries and cause credit scores to dip temporarily.
Tenant screening services
Some tenant screening services offer credit reports to landlords, others don’t. On e-renter.com, for example, landlords request a certain credit score range, and the site tells them whether the tenant meets or exceeds that requirement. It may also include evictions, bankruptcies, collections and other background information.
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion offer several credit screening products for the rental market. These services may require an applicant to initiate the check, and generally count it as a soft inquiry, which doesn’t affect a credit score.
Experian says rental applicants can pay $14.95 to buy a copy of their Experian credit report online and choose to grant one or more prospective landlords access to view their credit report for up to 30 days. “The consumer’s personal information, including Social Security number and account numbers are not shared with prospective landlord(s). When a consumer purchases their Experian credit report, it is considered a soft inquiry and there is no impact to their credit scores,” says Greg Wright, executive vice president and chief product officer at Experian Consumer Information Services.
TransUnion offers a similar service where landlords can pay to view the prospective tenant’s credit…