Free Tenant Background Check
Relaunching July 2020!
Free Tenant Background Check
Want a quick, free tenant background check to get a glimpse into your prospect’s life?
As a free welcome gift to new members, SparkRental offers a free SSN trace and identity verification, that includes:
- SSN verification (including when it was issued)
- Date of birth
- Current home address
- How long they’ve lived there
- Alternate names and aliases
It scours billions of online records to compile an “at a glance” background check for you; phone records, motor vehicle registrations, utility billing history, property registrations, and change of address forms.
Pretty nifty, eh? It’s all designed to give you an instant test drive of our larger tenant screening system and online landlord software.
How It Fits into Your Larger Tenant Screening
As awesome as it is, this free background check alone is not enough to make an informed leasing decision.
First, make sure you collect a full rental application. (It’s free on our system – no strings attached.) The rental application will give you a good sense for whether the applicant looks like a promising fit.
Compare the information on the rental application with what’s in the free tenant background check. Does the background check support what the prospect stated in their rental application?
Or are there discrepancies?
You’ll also want to run a full tenant credit report, criminal background check, and eviction history report – more on that below.
Free SSN Trace in Action
Only One Per Landlord
We’re big on transparency around here. It’s why we openly display our pricing options all over our website – we don’t like surprises, and we’re pretty sure you don’t either (at least when it comes to charges and fees). In fact, you’ll find it below!
This free tenant background check is a welcome gift from us to you. Unfortunately, that means it’s a one-time deal.
But we think you’ll be impressed with how easy our system is, and all of the things it can do. From integrated rental applications and tenant screening reports to lease agreements to online rent collection and more, the system does A LOT.
And by the way, the tenant screening reports (credit reports, criminal background checks, and eviction reports) can be charged directly to the applicant. So they’re free for you, and you don’t even have to worry about collecting rental application fees!
What Do Full Tenant Screening Reports Cost?
Transparent pricing: refreshing, right?
Here’s what you’ll pay for full credit reports, nationwide criminal background checks, and nationwide eviction history reports at each membership level:
You can either run the reports instantly, or request them to be tenant-authorized.
Note: For instant credit reports, you will need a one-time site inspection. It’s the law! But even without the site inspection, you can still run tenant-authorized credit reports, and run criminal and eviction reports instantly.
Charge the tenant screening reports directly to the applicant, so you don’t even have to collect an application fee!
Deni’s Take on Tenant Background Checks as a Property Manager
“But they seemed good to me when I signed a lease agreement?”
That is often what I hear when speaking to a frustrated owner-landlord. Frustrated because they just went through a terrible few months where the rent remained unpaid, and the tenants damaged the property.
There were eviction notices, threats from the tenants, and finally court. And when all was said and done, after damages, financial and to the property itself, the landlord was out thousands upon thousands of dollars.
Hindsight can be an expensive way to learn. Slapping yourself on the forehead after a similar scenario is all fine and good. However, had you done one thing differently in the beginning, gone one extra step, this all could have been saved.
What’s worse is that I have known heard seasoned property managers who rent on instinct (“roi”). An “roi” that will kill the real ROI.
By spending 20 minutes on a thorough tenant background check, you would have better known the person who “seemed good at the time.”
While our free tenant background check is not designed to be a complete set of tenant screening reports, it will help you start the tenant screening process.
And while you may be able to come up with an example of a tenant with good credit who still ended up defaulting, it is the exception rather than the rule. Not conducting tenant screening, is just putting your head in the sand.
By the way, a complete and comprehensive tenant screening is not just a tenant credit report or free tenant background check. More on that shortly!
What, a Credit Report Isn’t Enough?
Credit. I wish I could say just run the tenant credit report and be done with it. But that is not the case! A tenant credit report is only part of the larger picture. However, a free tenant credit report is certainly a perfect start as it does tell quite a tale.
Beware of making a crucial decision only by the credit score solely. Look at the tenant background checks in depth!
- How many credit accounts does this applicant have?
- Do they appear financially over-extended?
- If they do have a borderline credit score, what is the cause?
Good credit score means go, right? In my experience, one can have a good score but an over-abundance of credit accounts with a balance. Could this be a set-up for a fall?
On the other side of the spectrum, a low credit score may be due to medical bills. Where looking closer, you will see that despite the score on the tenant credit report, all credit accounts are paid on time.
Looking closer to the tenant credit report is the only way to reveal this. A score is just the tip of the iceberg.
Income and Employer. Anyone can write in on a rental application that they make X income and have been at Y Company for Z years. Get proof! And more, contact these employers! Full tenant screening reports should never just be a tenant credit report number or score. There should be employment documentation and full references. What if my applicant is self-employed? Ask for proof! You are offering up a very expensive asset to a perfect stranger. Get to know them better. Self-employed, ask for tax returns or bank statements. W2 earners can provide banking statements along with pay stubs.
Landlord References. I will let you in on a little trade secret. Often, a landlord is so desperate to rid themselves of a problem tenant, they will tell lies. Surprising? Don’t judge until you have been in their shoes. I have never practiced this kind of deception before, but I have thought on it a bit.
Well, then, if I cannot trust a truthful landlord reference, what do I do? Go back! Ah, the landlord before has nothing to lose or gain by telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
Make sure with a rental application, preferably a free rental application, your applicants provide this vital information.
Criminal. Before you slam the door shut on someone with a criminal history, be cautious! It can be considered a form of discrimination. For instance, denying someone on an arrest alone, where there was no conviction may be a violation of fair housing laws. It is important to tread lightly. Make sure that if you run criminal backgrounds, that they are run on every applicant. Choosing just a few, could result in some hot water and allegations of discrimination. When collecting information on your free rental applications, that you are asking the same information across the board.
Eviction. In order for an eviction to end up on a credit report; there must be an issued judgement. Frankly, that can take some time. However, as technology advances, there are other means to get this information. For instance, (shameless plug ahead, beware!) SparkRental provides nationwide eviction reports, including data from all 50 states. Millions of landlord/tenant records are scrubbed through to provide details on any past evictions. And most of this information is not found on a tenant credit report. OK, plug over!
Be a Sneaky Pete. Check out your applicant’s social media accounts if they are publicly available. If you see your applicant in every picture with two beers in his or her hand and every other post about the new tavern they will be visiting, this may be a red flag. I am not saying a drink now and again is a problem. However, you will see tell-tale signs of the partier, the slob, the complainer and more. All this by just by taking a gander online.
Renter Profiles – Getting to Know You
Increasingly, baby-boomers and empty nesters are choosing to rent instead of buy, as they downsize and leave their child-rearing suburban homes. Owning rental investment property in an area where retirement population is popular or on the rise such as Florida or Colorado can be lucrative for landlords. According to USA Today, baby boomers have the highest credit ratings compared to the other age groups.
The other end of the spectrum is Generation Z who now make up a large part of the renter demographic. Born, in the mid-1990’s through the early 2000’s, this generation makes up about 25% of the United States total population. Looking to get out on their own, or soon thereof, this young group may have little to no credit. In fact, Gen Z has the lowest scores on their tenant screening reports; with an average of 634.
This poses a challenge to the real estate investor. Later in this article, we will discuss how to use a co-signor to protect yourself fully when renting to the younger generation.
Then there is the middle. Those in between the young and the old. One could say, these generations should be buying homes. And if they are not, is it because of credit issues due to mismanagement of money?
You can see how understanding these bits of information along with running comprehensive tenant background checks can assist in making the best decisions in who to sign a lease agreement with.
Adding It All Up
Earlier I talked about the Generation Z becoming one of the largest growing renter sector. However, often, these folks come with little to no credit. Or, perhaps the income is a bit short. What to do? This is where a co-signor is very handy. Remember, however to run a full tenant background check on the co-signor as well. Do not just assume that they are squeaky clean.
What if an application reveals some slight credit issues on the tenant credit report, but their income is more than sufficient. Consider, asking for an additional month rent up front. Make sure that it is permitted under your state landlord tenant statutes.
There are some items that may show up on tenant screening reports that prove to be huge red flags!
- Eviction judgements
- Cell-phone bills in collection, late or unpaid
- Utility bills in collection
- Several unpaid credit card accounts
Some items may be explained. Medical bills, for instance. However, if the entire credit report looks sketchy, be “vewwy caweful”, (said in my most convincing Elmer Fudd impersonation).
Take into consideration all of the information. The employment, the landlord references, what you seek and find.
Here is the cold fact. If your rental is located in a location where people are waiting in line to rent, you can be very picky in who you choose. Consider yourself lucky.
However, there are some properties located in less than favorable areas. For whatever reason, perspective applicants are not banging the door down with their free rental applications filled out and ready. Or the ones that have their rental application in hand and ready to rent, are, well, not rent-worthy. Consider using a co-signor, collecting that extra month’s rent, where permitted and use an automatic rent paying service. Spark Rental has a variety of these along with an exclusive feature where the rent comes out of the tenant’s paycheck.
Tenant Background Checks – Too Complicated & Expensive?
Conducting thorough tenant background screening no longer incurs a fee for landlords. There are available tools such as SparkRental’s Landlord App that pass off the fee completely to the tenant. That means a completely free tenant screening report for the landlord-owner-real estate investor-property manager. And frankly, free provides no excuse to forego the essential tenant background checks.
Complicated no more! Often it is as simple as your applicants receiving an email. With Spark Rental’s free tenant screening, you can even fill a few simple fields for the rental property address and send your applicants a property-specific link to fill out the free rental application and pay for the reports. And not only do you receive, the report to your account, but also have full access to download a pdf of the rental application.
TIP: Always keep the rental application in a safe place. I personally still save hard copies in a locked cabinet. Why? Because there is insurmountable amount of information that can be used for an unforeseen emergency or eviction.
Overall, tenant screening is not just a useful tool, it is requisite in order to operate and manage a rental portfolio to its maximum ROI.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Free Tenant Background Check
What’s included in the free tenant background check?
The free tenant screening check includes a SSN trace and identity confirmation, along with their date of birth. It also verifies their last known address and how long they’ve lived there, along with other known aliases.
How can we offer a tenant background check free?
It’s a free welcome gift with new accounts. In the business world it’s known as a “loss leader” – we take a loss on offering the free tenant background check, because we’re that convinced that you’ll like our other free and paid services.
What other tenant screening reports are available?
We offer four tenant screening reports: a full credit report, nationwide criminal background check, nationwide eviction history report, and full housing history report with identity verification.
You can pick and choose which reports you want – they cost between $9-15 apiece, depending on your account level (see the pricing table higher on this page).
How much does a credit report cost?
All of our tenant background checks cost between $9-15, depending on your account level. Free members pay the normal price of $15 per report, while our paid members get a discount on all tenant screening reports.
Is there any delay when I run a free background check on a tenant?
Nope! It’s instantaneous.
How many free tenant background checks can I run?
Just one, as a free welcome gift when you create a new account. You can, however, run any of our full tenant screening reports for between $9-15 a report, depending on your membership level (see the tenant screening pricing table higher on this page).
What information do I need to run a tenant screening report free?
All you need to run a free tenant background check is the applicant’s name and Social Security Number. Easy peasy.
Can I also run a free rental application with my free background check on a tenant?
Yep! When you get your instant tenant background check free, you’ll see a button at the bottom of the free screening report to request a rental application and/or other tenant screening reports. All you need to do is enter their email address and we’ll send them a request to complete the rental application.