Guide to Choosing the Best Tenant Screening Service 2017 (Part 2)

In my last post, Guide to Choosing the Best Tenant Screening Service 2017         (Part 1) I wrote about  “what makes TenantMagic better than the rest of the tenant screening companies out there?”  That post looked at the importance of having comprehensive screenings to make a qualified decision when considering rental applicants.

In this post I want to look at the other end of the spectrum, screening reports that have volumes of data and analytics.

A business acquaintance of mine has a real estate agent service platform and recently contacted me regarding a competitor that offers a similar application and screening program. They approached him to explore potential partnering opportunities. My acquaintance asked me what I thought of the company.

Their web site had a good clean design and did a nice job of presenting their program. The 5-minute video on the home page spent a lot of time talking about using artificial intelligence for their reporting analytics.

I then looked at their sample reports and was overwhelmed by the number of analytics and charts. A lot of the data was nice to know but really did not add much to the overall decision making process. From my perspective, it would lead to analysis paralysis. Here is a good article that describes analysis paralysis in decision making. https://personalexcellence.co/blog/analysis-paralysis/

I base this observation on the calls I receive from both agents and landlords users of TenantMagic. We have made every effort to make our reports as easy to read and review as possible. Over the years we have made changes from the input we have received from our users. In spite of all of these efforts we do get users that need assistance. We do provide written instructions and have short explainer videos but some still need to be walked through the process the first time.

TenantMagic users want both comprehensive information and the ability to quickly evaluate it. We work very hard to maintain that balance to make sure agents and owners select TenantMagic when choosing the best tenant screening service. After all they are using our service to save time and overwhelming them with data is counterproductive.

When choosing the best tenant screening service, agents and landlords need to consider how well the tenant screening provider understands their information and time requirements. TenantMagic understands those requirements by listening to our users.

Guide to Choosing the Best Tenant Screening Services 2017 (Part 1)

Choosing the best tenant screening service
How to choose the best tenant screening service

One question we frequently get at TenantMagic is “what makes TenantMagic better than the rest of the tenant screening companies out there?” With so many different tenant screening companies, we understand that looking for the best screening service might be difficult.  For that reason, we decided to give you our guide on choosing the best tenant screening companies. Today’s post we will look at the importance of comprehensive screenings.

Comprehensive screenings

One important aspect of tenant screening is gathering all relevant information about the tenant. I have spoken to many landlords and agents that use a credit report to qualify a tenant and sometimes they accept a credit report provided by the applicant.

There are 2 reasons why this is bad.

  1. Credit reports give you part of the picture. Eviction reports and criminal reports ore very important to properly evaluate a potential tenant.
  2. As I have written in a previous post, fake credit reports can be purchased on-line. Here is a site that blatantly promotes them. https://fake-credit-score.pdffiller.com/

Many services offer combinations of credit reports, criminal reports, and eviction reports, and others offer credit and criminal reports, with eviction reports as an additional add-on cost. TenantMagic includes eviction reports in the screening report giving owners and agent comprehensive information to make a highly informed decision.

TenantMagic goes one step further after the owner or agent receives the reports.  There are instances when the criminal received from the courts require further explanation. TenantMagic will conduct additional research on criminal reports if further clarification is required.

Additionally, eviction courts do not use social security numbers. This can result in false positives with common names. The TenantMagic program resolves false positives by comparing addresses where the applicant was known to live as reported by the credit bureaus with the addresses where a person with that name was evicted. If there is a match, then we know it was the applicant that was evicted.

In future posts regarding Choosing the Best Tenant Screening Services, I will discuss customer service and ease of use for both the owner/agent and the applicant.

 

How Great Customer Service Impacts Your Business

Great customer service
Excellent customer service directly impacts your business

In my last 2 posts I wrote about the importance of customer service for tenant screening providers and how TenantMagic uses customer service to create a competitive advantage.

Since that post we noticed a spike in registrations that still continues. I originally attributed it to our blogs and marketing efforts. This was only was only partially correct.

Fortunately, a number of the new registrants called in for additional information. They were from all over the country and I asked them how they heard about TenantMagic. Most of them told me that they heard of us from recommendations on Trulia’s www.trulia.com website forum discussing the “Best website to use for tenant screening.”

Below are 2 comments that mention TenantMagic’s customer service.

“TenantMagic. TenantMagic. Easiest, simplest, most effective way to screen my applicants. I’ve been doing rentals for 28 years and I have never had an easier and better way to screen than TenantMagic. If you are ever looking for a tenant screening service that is free to the user, that is easy with immediate results, that provides everything you would want like criminal, eviction, credit, sex offender, etc, then switch to TenantMagic.
http://www.tenantmagic.net is the best I’ve come across. I spoke immediately with the owner who assisted me and my applicants right away.
No cost. Simple to use. Better than e-renter, cozy, my rental, etc. 10/10.”

“Rentprep is a very good service, but I actually was not satisfied with how much time it took to get my application. They say that it is because they are doing the applications by hand and reviewing them, which I believe.
But I switched to a company called TenantMagic http://www.tenantmagic.net and have received the same application review services checking for any mistakes, false positives, etc, and found that it is much cheaper than rent prep, and much better. I spoke with owner right away, he was very helpful. I agree with above comments that tenant background is terrible, and my rental is also not a great service. I’ve tried 3-4 services and nothing compared to customer service and speed of TenantMagic.”

You can check out the actual comments and thread at – https://www.trulia.com/voices/Property_QandA/Best_website_to_use_for_tenant_screening_-641199

It is really satisfying to implement a strategy and see how it directly impacts your business. One of my favorite sayings is “ It is simple but not easy.” And that surely applies to establishing a customer service strategy that works.

Tenant Screening Customer Service – The TenantMagic Advantage

Let your business stand out with superior customer service

 

In my previous post I wrote about how TenantMagic stands above its competitors by providing superior tenant screening customer service. Here is a link to a Forbes article http://bit.ly/2sTWAD1 that supports our strategy, that customer service is a great differentiator.

In this post I will give you a recent example.

TenantMagic’s tenant screening customer service is available 7 days a week. We know that our agents and landlords don’t work Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm and neither do we. We see much of our activity after 5pm and on weekends. One of our competitors brags about having their customer service available Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. TenantMagic’s live phone customer service is available from 8:00 am to 9:00pm Monday through Friday and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

This past Saturday, I received a call from a woman in her 70’s who needed help to complete the online rental application and tenant screening for her and her husband.  Neither were what you would call computer savvy.

She called asking for assistance, as she was somewhat unsure about entering personal information into an online application. She asked if we could stay on the with her while she entered her information which we did not only for her, but for her husband too.

In less than a half hour both applications were completed and the agent received their applications and screening reports.  They were very thankful not only for the assistance, but that it was provided on a Saturday morning. The property they were applying to was in demand and they needed to get their application in as quickly as possible.

TenantMagic’s development team has worked with our customer service team to make the user experience as easy as possible. We see that we are successful more than 95% of the time based on the number of customer service calls we receive compared to the number of applications that are completed.

We often hear back from the agents and landlords of the 5% that needed the assistance, thanking us. They appreciate that their vacancy will be filled in a timely manner. This has resulted not only in repeat business but great referrals.

 

 

Are your rental applicants using fake pay stubs?

Are your applicants using fake pay stubs?
Fake pay stubs are easy to get

In a previous post, I discussed the ease of getting a fake credit report and why you should always run your own screening reports for rental applicants. Credit reports are not the only fake documents that are readily available online. Fake pay stubs are also easily available for under $10.00.

https://www.realcheckstubs.com and https://fakepaystubonline.com are just 2 of many services that can be used.

It only takes a few minutes to generate a fake pay stub and they can look very authentic. If the rent is $1200 per month and you require a 3-1 income to rent ratio, no problem. The applicant can simply generate pay stubs showing income of $3600 per month or more regardless of what they make.

Income is obviously one of the more important requirements when considering a tenant. Lack of sufficient income will typically result non-payment of rent and ultimately in an eviction.

Fortunately there are a number of steps you can take to verify an applicant’s pay stub information.

  • Take a close look at the deduction amounts. Calculate them to see if they make sense and are in-line with the state where they work. City and state tax rates are readily accessible on line.
  • Ask for bank statements that correspond with the dates of the paystubs to see that the money was actually deposited into their account.
  • Look at eviction and credit reports to see if there are any anomalies.

Some resources suggest contacting employers to verify the income. I do not recommend this, as many employers will not provide that information. Some larger corporations that do, will outsource the service to a third party which can charge up to $25. With the steps I outlined you should be able to get verified income without the significant time and effort required to contact the employer.

The best way to incorporate these steps into your application process is to use a online rental application and background screening program. An applicant completing a TenantMagic application give permission for the agent or owner to ask for information such as bank statements in addition to the credit, eviction and criminal information pulled from the bureaus.

TenantMagic www.tenantmagic.net comprehensive application and tenant screening at no cost to offers real estate agents, property managers and landlords. Applicants pay the fee.

Jay Apple is co-founder of TenantMagic, LLC  www.tenantmagic.net

Technology-relevant lead generation for property managers and landlords

Use technology-relevant lead generation
Millennials hate voice mail

Technology-relevant lead generation is so important to effectively market your properties, especially to millennials.

Many owners and property managers I speak with are always looking for a reliable source for rental applicants.

A significant number of these applicants will likely be millennials. According to a cnbc article  http://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/09/millennials-will-be-renting-for-a-lot-longer.html, over 60% of people in the 25 to 34 age group, are renting their residences.

In addition to listing on sites such as  Craigslist or Zillow, many owners or managers place a “For Rent” sign out with a phone number of the owner or property manager.

“For Rent” signs will typically attract potential applicants that have a greater interest,  as they are making the effort to check out the property and the neighborhood.

The problem with the “For Rent” signs is that the phone is the method of contact. This brings up a number of issues.

Potential applicants often look at properties during evenings and week-ends when rental offices are closed and owners are not always available. Many applicants, especially millennials,  are adverse to calling and even a larger number refuse to leave a message. If they do leave a message (which is unlikely)  and you call them back, don’t even think of leaving them a voice message.

Millennials hate voicemails. They don’t like leaving voicemails and will typically send a text message instead. They also often avoid listening to voicemails that have been left for them by others. Here is a great column giving a millennial’s perspective on voicemails.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/bthesite/bs-b-0618-column-20150617-story.html

So, what is the best way to use “For Rent” signs? Use a text lead generation program for the signs. This is a good example of technology-relevant lead generation.

Full disclosure – TenantMagic has launched Rider Sign Leads www.ridersignleads.com. The program provides property managers and owners with a customizable code that can be placed on the “For Rent” sign riders, either in addition to or  replacing the phone number. When the prospective applicant texts the code to the number on the sign, they receive the rental details, owner/manager contact information and a link to the web listing of the property. The owner/manager receives the phone number of the prospect.

Technology is changing the way we shop, live and make decisions. It is imperative to make sure that your business can accommodate the tech tools that are being used by your target market.

Jay Apple is co-founder of TenantMagic, LLC  www.tenantmagic.net

A credit report alone is not sufficient for screening a tenant

rental property trashed by bad tenants
But they had a good credit score.

I last wrote that you should never accept a credit report provided by the applicant due to easy online availability of fake credit reports.

In this post, I would like to explain why even a valid credit report is inadequate by itself when screening a rental applicant.

Credit reports do not contain enough information to properly evaluate an applicant.

The applicant’s income, in addition to eviction and criminal history are very important when considering a potential applicant and none of these are found in a credit report.

Typically the required income to rent ratio is 3 to 1. If the rent is $1000 per month, then the income for all the renters need to be at least $3000 per month.

I am often asked about verifying income. We recommend that the agent or owner ask for 3 consecutive pay stubs. You should request the 3 most recent bank statements to verify  the income deposits if the applicant is self-employed.

This method is far easier and quicker than attempting to get salary or wage information from the employer. Many large employers will direct you to a third party that requires a fee for income verification.

An eviction report is extremely important.  A person who was evicted in the past, is likely to be evicted again. It is very time consuming and costly to evict a teannt. Repairs to the property also need to be taken into account. Most evicted tenants don’t exactly leave the property “broom clean move-out” condition.

Don’t think a criminal report is important? Think again. I was speaking at a real estate investors group about tenant screening best practices.  An elderly landlord told me a very scary story. The tenants in one of his properties stopped paying rent and would not respond to his phone calls. He went to the house to ask about the rent, was beaten severely by one of the occupants and ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks.

It was discovered after the tenant was arrested that he was a convicted felon.

A criminal background check would have identified his criminal history and saved the landlord from the pain and suffering of the beating.

Here are some more stories that will help convince you about the importance of tenant screening. http://buildrealty.net/blog/2014/12/21/6-insane-landlording-stories-that-prove-the-importance-of-tenant-screening/

No tenant screening process will be 100% effective. But a comprehensive background search can significantly reduce the number of problem tenants.

Jay Apple is co-founder of TenantMagic, LLC  www.tenantmagic.net

Why you shouldn’t use a credit report provided by a rental applicant

Fake credit report web site

Here is a big reason why you should never use a credit report provided by the rental applicant for an application.

It is quite easy to get fake one.  Simply by Google “Fake credit report” and fill out the on-line pdf. Here is a link to one of the sites so you can see for yourself. https://fake-credit-score.pdffiller.com/

Agents and landlords should always use a reputable online tenant screening program to avoid fakes.

You obviously want to know that the information in a completed rental application and screening report is accurate.  It is also critical to know that the person submitting it is who they claim to be.

A quality screening provider will verify the information provided by the applicant and their identification.  When an applicant enters their social security number into the system. The credit bureau will then check to see that the personal data of the applicant matches with what the bureau has on file (date of birth, current address, etc.) The process should then require the applicant to verify their ID. This is accomplished by answering questions that only the applicant would know the answer to such as amount of car payment, previous address or auto loan amount.

Additionally, a credit report is only one of the reports that should be considered by an agent or landlord You really need an eviction report, a criminal history report and a sex offender report to do a thorough review of an applicant.

There is no shortage of scammers out there. And once they are in a property, it is difficult and expensive to get them out.  Then there is often significant damage to the property once you do get them out.

Fortunately there are high-quality tenant screening service providers that you can use.  A good tenant screening service will help identify unqualified applicants before the lease is signed, saving you time and money.

Jay Apple is co-founder of TenantMagic  www.tenantmagic.net Continue reading Why you shouldn’t use a credit report provided by a rental applicant

Paper rental applications? Do you know what century we’re in?

It never ceases to amaze me the number of agents, landlords and property managers that still use paper applications.

In my last 2 posts I covered how paper applications can complicate Fair Housing compliance and the create personal data security problems.

Today we will look at how time consuming paper applications are, how they make  your business look antiquated and can affect compliance with Fair Housing laws.

Paper applications, whether they are handed out or a downloadable pdf, require the agent/owner/ property manager to enter all that information into the background screening program. (If you are not screening your prospective tenants, then you are just asking for big trouble.)

Typically this can take up to 10 minutes or more per application, which  adds up when you have multiple vacancies.

Paper applications are usually accompanied by paper checks or credit card information application fees that need to be written out and then entered into a payment system, again requiring even more time with data entry.

Still not convinced? Do you still feel that all this paper and redundant data entry is really not that big of a deal?

Then consider the image that you are portraying to your prospective tenants. If you are using paper applications and collecting fees with paper checks you are giving people the impression that your business is not up to date. What are going to think about your property and its maintenance?

Fair Housing compliance is also an issue with paper applications. A blog post by OneRent http://blog.onerent.co/fair-housing-rental-application/  reports that “Many landlords notice that the paper rental applications that they receive, are rarely complete. In most of the cases, the tenant provides half-finished applications that make it difficult for property owners to scourge for and scrutinize additional information. Some tenants provide basic bio data at first and additional bank statements and credit reports later, leaving the property owners with no option but to hand over the house to a new tenant in the interim period.”

Due to the lack of complete information, landlords often discourage potential tenants from looking into their properties or steer such applicants towards another property. This constitutes a violation of the anti-discriminatory housing laws.

Using a reputable online application and screening company makes sense on so many different levels. The amount of time you save and the how you present yourself and business are just two reasons to switch.

Jay Apple is co-founder of TenantMagic www.tenantmagic.net, an online rental application and background screening provider that is free to real estate agents, property managers and landlords.

 

Personal data security dangers with paper rental applications

 

Personal data security dangers with paper rental applications
Your personal data is at risk with paper rental applications

In my last post I discussed the fair housing compliance issues associated with paper applications. In this post we will look at applicant personal data security dangers with paper rental applications and how to keep applicant data secure.

Best practices in screening rental applicants require detailed personal information. You can check out this post to get a good explanation of why this data is important when assessing rental applicants.  http://www.kimberlyhowell.com/renters-landlords/why-does-a-rental-application-require-so-much-personal-info/

According to the FBI, identity theft is the fasted growing white-collar crime in America.

Believe it or not there are still many real estate agents, property managers and landlords that use paper rental application.

There are 2 variations of these

1) An actual paper application that is handed out at the location or available on line and then downloaded to be completed. The completed application is then hand-delivered, emailed or even faxed back to the office.

2) An online fillable pdf.

Both present serious security problems as they are ultimately printed out to be viewed and distributed.

A paper application contains the applicant’s name, date of birth, current address and social security number.  I have also seen credit card information on an application

This is everything an identity thief needs to wreak havoc with an individual’s ID.

Paper applications are not easy to keep secure and away from prying eyes. I have seen them laying out in the open at many offices. These offices typically have a steady stream of people regularly visiting them. There are also cleaning and maintenance people that could access them, especially when the offices are closed and no one else is around.

Fillable, on-line pdfs present an additional security problem when there are multiple applicants. Many times the co-applicants are required to complete the same application as the primary applicant on the same form. The primary applicant will complete his/hers then the co-applicant will continue with the same application. This allows the co-applicant to see all of the primary applicant’s personal information. This is a cause for concern when the applicants don’t know each other all that well.

The solution to resolving these issues associated personal data security dangers with paper rental applications is to use a secure on-line application program.

Make sure it has the following features-

–  Individual applications (that can then be combined for review) for each applicant.

–  The ability to capture an SSN for screening purposes, but not make it visible to anyone after it is entered.

–  Access by permission only. If more than one person needs to review the application, each needs to have their own log on credentials.

Paper applications are obsolete and provide a tempting target for identity thieves. Many of the personal data security dangers with paper rental applications can be greatly reduced by using a reputable on-line rental application and background screening service provider.