A large part of my job as a property manager is to screen tenants. Several years ago when I first started, I managed all of the screening on my own, but as the business grew, it simply got to be too much for me to handle. Now we use a third party company that processes tenant background checks. It helps save me a lot of time, but there are disadvantages too. You should consider both the pros and cons before you hire a tenant screening company to help you manage your rental properties.
Personally for me the biggest advantage to using a tenant screening service is the simplicity. When I used to screen tenants myself I would spend almost an entire work day calling previous landlords, pulling credit reports, and hunting down public records. Now, most of screening service companies exist online, so all I have to do is visit a website, plug in the tenant's information using their application, and wait for a response.
Quick Response Times
Over the course of two years, I've worked with three different tenant screening service companies and they all had one thing in common, quick response times. On average, I receive a background report on a prospective tenant within four hours. That way, I can know whether or not the tenant is approved quickly and start the lease process.
I'm human and that means I sometimes make mistakes. When I screen a tenant myself, there is a risk that I'll miss something in the tenant's background. Tenant screening companies use computer software to gather the tenant's information and compile a report, so there is little room for error.
And then there are the disadvantages…
The biggest disadvantage to a tenant screening service is the cost. Typically, you have two payment options. One, you can pay a fee each time you use the service which can get costly. Two, you can sign a contract with the company and pay a monthly fee. While signing a contract will often get you a discount with the company, both options will cost money and take away from your rental income.
Most screening service companies give you a report and a grade on every potential tenant. I've found that these grades can be an incomplete picture and lead some of the landlords I work with to deny a renter that would have made a great tenant. Since the system is automatic, it is not perfect and you will still need to do some of your own research to make the best decision.
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