Author Archive: amitchell

Why do I need a site inspection to order a full credit report?

Why do I need a site inspection

Why do I need a site inspection?

The credit bureaus began requiring site inspections in 2003 to ensure the protection of consumer data as a provision of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Rest assured, a site inspection is a very simple process.  We simply have a contracted site inspector meet you at your office/home office at a time that is convenient for you. During the site inspection visit, the site inspector

  • Verify there is a physical office or home office which is a secure environment that does not allow public access to your computer
  • Look to see that you have the ability to secure or dispose of any printed credit reports properly by way of a paper shredder and a locking filing cabinet
  • Verify that credit reports will be used for tenant screening only and for no other business purpose
  • Take pictures of the location

As soon as the site inspection is completed and we receive the results, you will have access to the full Tenant Credit Report including the FICO score.

While you wait for the site inspection to be completed, as long as we’ve received your other required items you can order and view the Tenant Credit Report Card so you don’t have to wait to evaluate the applicants you need to screen right now. And with our service any Credit Report Cards you order now will automatically be converted into the full Tenant Credit Report format at no charge once the site inspection is completed.

What Happens When a Tenant Vacates Early

What happens when a Tenant Vacates early

What happens when a tenant leaves early?

Landlords have significant risks they must deal with when they lease rental property that they own. Landlords normally own the building they are leasing out and pay the mortgage payments using proceeds from the collected rents. In order to better protect themselves, a majority of landlords draft carefully worded leases in which the terms of the agreement, the amount of the security deposit and the duration of the lease are all outlined. When a tenant breaks a lease by leaving early, it is important for landlords to understand what their rights are and then to proceed accordingly.

What happens if a tenant breaks a lease and leaves early?

If you are a landlord who rents multiple properties, it is only a matter of time before one of your tenants will break a lease. While they may do this by violating any of the stipulations contained in the document, the most common way tenants break a lease is by leaving early. Some may do so without notice, disappearing without a forwarding address. Others may have job transfers that require them to move. There are several things you must do after the tenant leaves before the lease expiration date.

1. How soon can you re-rent?

As soon as you know that your tenant has broken their lease, you not only can start looking for a new tenant but in many states, it is your duty to take reasonable steps to find a suitable replacement tenant. This does not mean that you have to go out of your way to re-rent the property. You should advertise the space and take the time to show it. If you find a new tenant who meets your credit and background requirements, you are free to lease it to them. If you are unable to find a new tenant who is suitable, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the tenant who broke the lease for the remaining rent. You are also able to require them to pay rent until you find a replacement tenant as well as the costs you incur for advertising the space. If you do not take reasonable steps, you will likely be unable to recover the amount owed by your former tenant.

2. Can you use a security deposit to cover the remainder of the lease term?

In a majority of states, unless your lease states otherwise, the security deposit your tenant pays may be used to pay for damages he or she causes to the property. You will have a set period of time, ranging from 10 to 30 days, to provide your tenant with an itemized listing of damages and their costs that you are subtracting from the security deposit. If you contain a clause in your lease that the security deposit may be held to pay unpaid rent, you can keep all or part of it, depending on the amount that is owed to you and when you re-rent the property.

Because the states recognize the risk that landlords take when they rent out their property, protections are in place to protect them when tenants violate their lease agreements. Making sure that you take reasonable steps to re-lease the property and send an itemized list of damages that will be deducted from their security deposits is important. You may also want to include a clause in your lease that security deposits may be applied to unpaid portions of rent if they leave early. If you are unable to find a suitable tenant to replace your former one, you have the right to file a lawsuit and seek the balance of the contract.


Accepting Cash Rent and Security Deposit Checks

Accepting Rental Payments

Accepting Rental Payments

There are multiple ways landlords can choose to accept rent from their tenants. Some do not really care how they get paid as long as they are paid. Others insist on only being paid by personal checks, cashier’s checks or money orders. Still others use online payment portals allowing tenants to submit payments to them via their credit or debit cards, and other landlords do so via online payment portal sites. It is best for landlords to take steps to protect themselves against the potential for fraud, no matter how they prefer to accept their rent and security deposit payments.


While the convenience of accepting cash for rent or security deposits is tempting, it’s best for landlords to avoid doing this, especially if they let tenants leave envelopes of money in a drop box. Tenants can easily claim later that they placed more cash in an envelope than they did, leaving landlords unable to prove that they were not paid what they were owed. If a landlord does want to accept cash payments, they need to do so only in person. They should also provide a receipt for the money, count it with the tenant and make the tenant also sign the receipt acknowledging the amount they paid. Landlords should keep a photocopy of the receipt they provided to the tenants in their files.

Personal checks

Many landlords do accept rent and security deposit payments via personal check. The danger of this is that there is no guarantee that the funds are in the tenant’s account when they write the check. Landlords may have to pay fees for returned checks, and they might have difficulty with collecting what they are owed if the checks bounce. Landlords should make photocopies of the checks they receive and only provide receipts once they clear.

Cashier’s checks

Cashier’s checks are one of the most secure forms of payment. The bank signs on as a guarantor of the face value of the check. This removes the worry of the funds not being available when the check is presented to the bank for payment. Landlords should still make photocopies of cashier’s checks and provide receipts to the tenants.

Money orders

Money orders are also a good way for tenants to pay rent. They can get these at banks, post offices or convenience stores. Since they pay cash for the face value of the money order, landlords simply need to deposit or cash them. They should, of course, photocopy the money orders as well as the receipts they provide.

Credit cards

It’s best for landlords to avoid accepting credit card payments. Tenants can challenge the charges made to their cards. Accepting credit cards for rent payments also means the landlord will have to pay transaction costs for each payment.

Online payment portals

This is a very secure way to accept rent payments. Tenants log in to the site and make their rent payment via an ACH transaction. This is then immediately withdrawn from their bank accounts. Landlords can keep copies of receipts, and the systems send copies electronically to the tenants as well.

While there are a variety of different ways landlords can accept rent or security deposit payments from their tenants, it is best to do so using one of the most secure forms, such as via cashier’s checks, money orders or online payment portals. No matter how rent is accepted, landlords should always photocopy the payment instrument and the receipt they give to their tenants, maintaining them in files in the event they are later needed in court.

Organize Your Tenant Records

Organizing Tenant Records

Organizing Your Tenant Records

When you are performing tenant screening on applicants for a rental home or apartment, you will have to deal with plenty of documents and paperwork. Because of the legal and tax implications of being a landlord, you will need to retain much of this paperwork for many years. Keeping your records from tenant screening organized can help you to find what you need without wasting your time. Keep these organizational tips in mind for organizing your tenant records.

Application Paperwork
Each applicant will submit a variety of paperwork to you as part of the process to become a tenant. You will collect documents even before the tenants move in, including applications, credit reports and references. You may wish to keep a specific file for applications that are rejected and have those separate from the tenants you accept. Maintaining the paperwork on rejected applicants can be done as a way to protect yourself against claims of discrimination. When you accept a tenant, you may wish to keep their application, credit report and references in an active folder with other information that you collect during the rental period.

Documents for Each Unit and Tenant
When you accept a tenant, it is in your best interest to maintain an active file on them. This file should include their references, credit report and original application. The signed lease should also go in the file. While they are living in your apartment or rental house, add any written or emailed correspondence, requests for entry and requests for repair. Move in and move out letters should be included in a tenant file. When a tenant stays long enough for a lease renewal, include the updated signed lease. If you choose to raise the rent, include that documentation as well. If you take photos of the unit before the move in process, place those in the file. Move out photos taken after the tenant has vacated the property should also be included, especially if you do not return the tenant’s security deposit due to damage.

Receipts and Tax Documents
As the owner of property that is a rental unit, you are able to make tax deductions on repairs that you perform. You should maintain a file for each property or unit for tax purposes. The unit-based file should include receipts related to any repair or replacement work that has been performed on the unit. This includes receipts for painting, new carpeting, cleaning and replacement of appliances. You will also need to keep receipts for professional services such as electrical work, heating and air conditioning maintenance and repairs and pest control. Keep all paperwork related to tax deductions for at least seven years in case of an audit.

Accepting Rental Applications

Rental Application

Accepting Rental Applications

Renting has become a very popular choice among people who are looking for a temporary residence. If you are a landlord or owner of a property that you wish to rent, there are several things to consider when choosing a tenant. This is where tenant screening becomes important. You want to ask for several things in the rental applications to ensure you are choosing the best tenant for your property. These applications can be presented to a potential tenant to be submitted electronically or in paper form. Here are some things to focus on when accepting these applications.

Criminal Background Check
First and fore most you want to ensure any potential tenant wont cause any harm to your property or other tenants around the neighborhood. This is why a criminal background check is important. It should be done on all tenants 18 years of age or older who will reside in the property. This will reveal any felonies or convictions a tenant may have had in the past or any current cases that are pending. Many landlords or property owners do not rent to tenants who have a criminal background.

Employment and Income
Ability to pay and is important when applying to rent a property. This is why employment history should be verified. Typically, a tenant should be employed with the same employer at least 6 months to one year to prove job stability. Current check stubs and /or bank statements can be used to verify this income and show consistent earnings.

Rental History
All prior addresses and landlords should be contacted. In this way, all on time payments, late payments or any prior problems a former landlord may have had with a tenant will be revealed. In gathering rental history, a landlord can get a good idea of a tenant’s ability to maintain a property, pay rent on time and adhere to property guidelines.

Credit History
Pulling a recent credit report is a part of tenant screening that allows the landlord or property owner to see any prior evictions or other delinquencies in payment history. The tenant can supply his or her social security number on the application and this credit information can be pulled by the property owner to get a snapshot of how responsible the tenant is with financial obligations.

In addition to gathering this information, a landlord should make sure all application fees, deposits, and other guidelines related to the property are clearly stated and understood by all tenants prior to accepting any applications. This will avoid any confusion or legal issues in the future and will ensure the most responsible tenant is chosen for the property.

Ending a Lease

Ending a Lease

Ending a Lease

Confusion is not uncommon for both tenants and property owners when it comes to issues associated with ending a rental lease. Leasing contracts cover rental periods between a specific starting and ending point, and typically require tenants to provide either verbal or written notice if they intend to vacate upon the conclusion of a lease. While the amount of notice required may vary from one rental lease to the next, notice of non-renewal is typically required to be furnished between 30 to 90 days in advance. Some leasing contracts are designed to allow tenants to remain on a month-to-month basis after the end of a lease while others require a new leasing agreement to be created.

After the Residency Has Been Vacated

The landlord or property manager will typically perform an inspection of the premises once the tenant has vacated in order to assess any damages and conduct repairs. Any remaining cleaning and security deposit is typically refunded once the tenant has vacated. The exact time-frame for refunding deposits may vary based on state leasing laws and different leasing terms, but most refunds are typically issued between 30 to 45 days after vacancy.

Early Termination, Subletting and Lease Amendments

Tenants who will not be able to stay through the end of their lease may be able to negotiate an early release from their rental agreement, provided their landlord or property manger is willing. Finding a new tenant to take over an existing lease may also be an option depending on rental policies and leasing terms. Other issues, such as enrolling in military service, are covered by law and allow tenants to move before the end of their lease without being required to pay additional fines or penalties.

Evicting a Tenant

A property manager or landlords may be required to evict a tenant, either due to non-payment or violating other terms of the lease agreement. The eviction process differs considerably from one state to the next, and both tenants and landlords would be wise to familiarize themselves with local leasing laws and the eviction process before taking any action. Most eviction processes typically require the property owner or landlord to issue written notice, provide tenants with a set amount of time to either address payment issues and/or vacate the residency. Many lease contracts detail specific circumstances that may result in eviction as well as any additional costs or fees that evicted tenants may be financial responsible for.

FAQs Credit Report Inquiries

FAQs Credit Report Inquiries

FAQs about Credit Report Inquiries

What are credit report inquiries?

Credit inquiries are requests by a “legitimate business” to check your credit. You can see these inquiries on a credit report under the Inquiries Section. Generally you will see a few inquiries on your credit report if you are shopping for a new car, refinancing a home, or looking for a place to rent.

Where do credit report inquiries appear?

Typically inquiries are toward the end of a credit report in their own section .

What is the difference between a hard and soft inquiry?

According to myFICO soft inquiries are all credit inquiries where your credit is NOT being reviewed by a prospective lender. These include inquiries where you’re checking your own credit (such as checking your score in myFICO), credit checks made by businesses to offer you goods or services (such as promotional offers by credit card companies), or inquiries made by businesses with whom you already have a credit account.

Hard inquiries are inquiries where a potential lender is reviewing your credit because you’ve applied for credit with them. These include credit checks when you’ve applied for an auto loan, mortgage or credit card. Each of these types of credit checks count as a single inquiry.

What are some examples of soft inquiries?

  • Checking your own credit
  • A company/business you already have a credit card with
  • Promotional offers from credit card companies

What are some examples of hard inquiries?

  • Applying for an auto loan
  • Applying for a mortgage
  • Applying for a credit card
  • Applying to rent a property from a landlord or property manager

How do inquiries affect my score?

Soft inquiries do not affect your credit score.  Hard inquiries will take less than 5 points off your score.

Are there any exceptions or tips you can give me?

If you are shopping around for a home, car or rental property the smart thing to do is reduce your “shopping” period to 45 days or less.  Your FICO score will then consider all these inquiries as a single inquiry and only affect your score once.

What if I don’t recognize an inquiry or I feel it is an unauthorized inquiry?

Hard credit inquiries may only be completed with a person’s consent. If you suspect that there has been an unauthorized inquiry with your credit, first establish that the inquiry hasn’t come from a legitimate pre-screening, or through a promotional event. If the legitimacy of the inquiry is still in question, request more information about the inquiry, as well as proof of authorization to run the inquiry. After undertaking these steps, if the authenticity of the inquiry is still suspect, begin a dispute. The inquiring agency has 30 days to respond in writing under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, after which, the reporting bureau is obligated to follow up with the inquiring agency. If proof of authorization is still not provided, then the credit reporting agency is obligated to remove the inquiry from your credit report.

Is making better tenant screening decisions one of your resolutions? It should be…

Is making better tenant screening decisions one of your 2011 resolutions

Is making better tenant screening decisions one of your 2016 resolutions?

Are you a busy property management company with multiple property managers or a busy landlord managing multiple properties?  Why not use our east to use Tenant Credit Report Card with a built in Report Card grading scale? This Tenant Credit Report option does not require a physical site inspection or site inspection fee and can be ordered the same day, usually within the hour.

The Tenant Credit Report Card is a simple, powerful recommendation tool for both property managers and landlords. The Tenant Credit Report Card can help improve decision turnaround time, reduce delinquency rates, and increase bottom line margins.

You’ll receive the applicant’s:

  • Credit Grade based on their FICO Credit Score
  • Payment Delinquency Rate
  • Bankruptcies, Liens and Judgments
  • Collection Account Indicator
  • SSN Validation
  • Previous Address Information


Tenant Credit Report Card $10.95
View Sample Tenant Credit Report Card

Sign up for Tenant Screening Now!

What Kind of Information Appears in the Public Records Section of a Tenant Credit Report?

A tenant credit report is a crucial document for a prospective landlord and a prospective tenant. The property owner can use the information in the report to determine the applicant’s ability to maintain the financial obligations of a lease. A credit report contains information such as employment information, tradeline summaries, previous addresses, current credit information, and public records such as bankruptcies, liens and judgments.

Public records play an important part in the background check process, as well. Public records contain negative information that silently speaks about the person’s creditworthiness. The following are types of information that a prospective landlord or property owner may find in the public records section of an applicant’s tenant credit report:


Bankruptcies are an additional piece of information that a prospective landlord would find in the public records section of a tenant credit report. Bankruptcies are legal declarations that a consumer is unable to pay his or her debt. Such declarations can remain on a person’s credit report for as long as seven years. A prospective landlord may see a bankruptcy as an indication that a debtor has money management problems and issues with other lenders. Alternatively, a property owner could see a recent bankruptcy as a clean slate for a prospective tenant.

Civil Judgments

Civil judgments appear in the public records section of a tenant credit report. Civil judgments can consist of a wide variety of negative information. A civil judgment occurs whenever a party or person sues a debtor to collect a sum of money. The suing party may be a bill collector, a person who was involved in an accident, or some other injured party. If the courts rule against the debtor, then the civil judgment will show up on the report. The report will show the date the court made the judgment, the amount of the debt, and the status of the debt.

Tax Liens

Tax liens appear on a tenant credit report. Tax liens occur because of unpaid taxes. A debtor should pay all tax debts to increase his or her chances of being accepted for a lease agreement.

Property owners should make their decisions based on all the information in the credit report rather than just the negative information.

How Student Loans Affect Your Credit Report

With the average student loan amount at the end of 2013, being $29,400, many college graduates are now wondering how their loans will affect their credit report. While the high costs of education may have forced them to take a student loan, many college students ignore their loans until the first payment is due. Unfortunately, by that time, many of them find themselves in in a bad situation, especially with the rise of post-graduation unemployment.

The best time to consider how your student loan will affect your credit is before you even apply for one. Knowing how your loan will affect you could have a large impact on how much you choose to borrow and, in turn, on how much you will have to repay. Consider that the average fixed interest rate for a Stafford loan right now is 6.21 percent, and private loan rates are even higher. Private loans’ rates are based on your credit score, and they tend to be variable rates, which means that the rates can fluctuate throughout the life of the loan.

Speaking of the life of the loan, the standard length of a student loan is 10 years. There are other repayment options, one of which, the extended repayment option, will allow you to lengthen your term by up to an additional 15 years. Extend with extreme caution, though; lengthening your loan term also greatly increases the amount of interest you will pay over the life of the loan. If you are financially able, it is best to pay your loan off sooner rather than later.

There are consequences to mismanaging your student loan repayments. If you are in danger of being late, it’s better to contact your loan provider and ask to defer your payments. A deferred payment does not affect your FICO score, unlike a late payment, which will incur a late fee and create affect your credit report after a certain time period. Also, deferring payments on certain loans stops the accrual of interest until the deferment period is over, while making late payments allows interest to accrue on top of the unpaid interest and the principal! Even worse, if your payment is more than a few months late, your loan will go into default status. A defaulted loan severely damages your credit and dramatically decreases your FICO score, making it difficult to qualify for other types of credit, including renting a home or apartment.

There is a silver lining, though. A well-managed student loan can help a new graduate establish a great credit history. Since your FICO score is based on different factors, including payment history, length of credit history, and debt to credit ratio, paying your loan responsibly over the length of the loan will increase your FICO score a little more each year. If you choose to take a student loan, take no more than you need, and pay on time every single month. You will be doing yourself a huge favor.