Author Archive: amitchell

How will collections affect my credit score?

Any collections item, medical or not, can lower a person’s FICO credit score by as much as 100 points. The degree to which a collection hurts your credit score is directly correlated with how high your credit score is when the collection agency reports the debt. The higher your score, the more points you can lose.

Generally accounts which go into collections will appear on your credit report for up to 7 years. Once you pay a collection account in its entirety the collection accounts status should change to “Paid, Paid Collection, or Closed”. If you settle with the collection agency for less than the full amount, your credit report should list the account as “settled, settled for less, or settled for less than full balance”.

Paying off the collection account sooner doesn’t mean it is deleted from your credit report immediately, instead it is just listed as paid. It is smart to pay your debts to reduce the debt you owe and show that you can repay your obligations. The collection paid or unpaid will have a negative effect until it’s purged from your report. One of the most important factors in how collections accounts affect your score is how recent the collection occurred, not necessarily the amount of the collection.

Medical debt is the most common type of collection account, representing nearly half of all reported collections. Almost 1 in 6 credit reports contain a medical debt collection, according to the Federal Reserve. With the new FICO scoring model, medical collections—including unpaid medical collections—will have a smaller impact than non-medical collections.

If the collection on your report is not your debt, you’re not required to pay it and creditors cannot list it on your report. If the collection status still remains on your report and more than 7 years has passed you should dispute the debt from your credit report.

With a physical site inspection those customers ordering credit reports for the purpose of tenant or employment screening from StarPoint Tenant Screening can view collection account detail when provided such as:

  • Creditor
  • Member number
  • Balance
  • Date the Collection was opened
  • Date Reported
  • Account Number
  • Date Paid

Individuals wishing to view their own credit report should visit for a free report annually.

Tenant Credit Report Unable to Score?

Did you order a Tenant Credit Report from us and receive the message:

Score:   Unable to Score

There can be a few reasons why the tenant’s credit could not be scored.  Here are a few possibilities and what you can do about them:

  • Confirm that the applicant’s name matches their Social Security Number. You can do this by looking in the Details section of the credit report for the word no-hit.

What you can do: If your applicant’s name does not match their Social Security Number a credit report cannot be returned.  Confirm with the applicant their legal name and Social Security number.

  • The applicant is young or a recent US Citizen and does not yet possess enough active credit such as a student loan, auto loan, mortgage or credit cards.

What you can do: If your tenant applicant is young check with your state landlord laws to see if you can ask for an extra initial deposit up front or ask the applicant if they can provide a W-2 or recent pay stubs to confirm their income or have a parent co-sign the application and lease. Most credit bureaus cannot generate a positive score unless the applicant possesses at least 2 active lines of credit.

  • The applicant has lived their life paying cash for everything and have not taken out any loans or had to pay any creditors.

What you can do: If your tenant applicant does not have any debt check with your state landlord laws to see if you can ask for an extra initial deposit up front to help protect yourself or ask the applicant if they can provide a W-2 or recent pay stubs to confirm their income or have someone co-sign the application and lease.  Most credit bureaus cannot generate a positive score unless the applicant possesses at least 2 active lines of credit.

  • The applicant has previously had loans and debt, but has either closed all of his/her accounts and does not possess enough open accounts for a score to be generated.

What you can do: If your tenant applicant has previously had credit but all accounts are now closed, check with your state landlord laws to see if you can ask for an extra initial deposit up front or ask the applicant if they can provide a W-2 or recent pay stubs to confirm their income or have someone co-sign the application and lease.  Also ask your credit reporting agency if there are any additional details on why & when the accounts were closed.  Extra information can sometimes be provided such as if they were closed normally or paid as agreed.

  • The applicant has previously had loans and debt, but filed for bankruptcy and all of his/her accounts were closed as part of the bankruptcy filing.

What you can do: If your tenant applicant has previously had credit but all accounts are now closed, check with your state landlord laws to see if you can ask for an extra initial deposit up front or ask the applicant if they can provide a W-2 or recent pay stubs to confirm their income or have someone co-sign the application and lease.  Also, ask your credit reporting agency if there are any additional details on when the bankruptcy occurred and if there has been any additional debt or collections since then.  Extra information can sometimes be provided such as the closed date, if they were closed normally, or paid or paying as agreed.

  • The applicant has previously had loans and debt, but all accounts are now in collections.

What you can do: If your tenant applicant has previously had credit but all accounts are now closed, check with your state landlord laws to see if you can ask for an extra initial deposit up front or ask the applicant if they can provide a W-2 or recent pay stubs to confirm their income or have someone co-sign the application and lease.  Also, ask your credit reporting agency if there are any additional details on if these accounts are in collections, when they went to collections and if they are still in collections with a balance.

The Most Common Rental Expenses

Landlords! Remember these common rental expenses when preparing your 2013 tax return.

  • Advertising – advertising expenses relating to offering the unit for rent.
  • Cleaning and Maintenance – Whether you are cleaning an apartment in between tenants, cleaning out a sewer line to avoid future plumbing problems or power washing the building’s exterior, it is all tax deductible. Make sure to keep all receipts for materials, rental equipment and labor costs.
  • Commissions – Commissions, bonuses, fees, and other amounts you pay to get a lease on the property.
  • Depreciation – You can begin to depreciate rental property when it is ready and available for rent.
  • Insurance – If you pay an insurance premium for more than one year in advance, for each year of coverage you can deduct the part of the premium payment that will apply to that year. You cannot deduct the total premium in the year you pay it.
  • Interest (other) – You can deduct mortgage interest you pay on your rental property. When you refinance a rental property for more than the previous outstanding balance, the portion of the interest allocatable to loan proceeds not related to rental use generally cannot be deducted as a rental expense.
  • Legal and other professional fees – You can deduct, as a rental expense, legal and other professional expenses such as tax return preparation fees you paid to prepare Schedule E, Part I.
  • Local transportation expenses – You may be able to deduct your ordinary and necessary local transportation expenses if you incur them to collect rental income or to manage, conserve, or maintain your rental property.
  • Management fees – Management fees that you pay to a property management company. The property management company should provide you with end of the year tax papers.
  • Mortgage interest paid to banks, etc. – If you paid $600 or more of mortgage interest on your rental property to any one person, you should receive a Form 1098 or similar statement showing the interest you paid for the year.
  • Points – The term “points” is often used to describe some of the charges paid, or treated as paid, by a borrower to take out a loan or a mortgage. These charges are also called loan origination fees, maximum loan charges, or premium charges.
  • Repairs
  • Taxes – In most cases, you cannot deduct charges for local benefits that increase the value of your property, such as charges for putting in streets, sidewalks, or water and sewer systems. However, you can deduct local benefit taxes that are for maintaining, repairing, or paying interest charges for the benefits.
  • Utilities – Generally, an expense for repairing or maintaining your rental property may be deducted if you are not required to capitalize the expense.

What to Do When Your Tenant Abandons Your Rental Unit?

If you have not heard from one of your tenants in a while  and his or her rental payment is already past due, it is time to investigate what’s happening.

According to a property owner s in Florida, one of his tenants abandoned his rental property, neglected to pay the property rent and gave no notice before leaving. He was devastated because he trusted that person thinking he was responsible. But, instead of filing legal charges against him, he just forgot the issue because he did not want to deal with a costly lawsuit.

He also reasoned that he did not know where to start his complaints about tenants who abandoned rental properties. He  felt the best thing to do  was some thorough tenant screening procedures in the future to prevent an incident like this from happening again in the future.

Now, if this happens to you, there are specific steps you can do to recover the amount of money owed by the tenant who abandoned his obligation. You also have the right to collect money for any damages on your property caused by the tenant who left including the attorney’s fees if you end up in court.

  • Give proper notice. Landlords are obliged to give a proper “notice of abandonment” to his or her tenant before they can get back the property. After two weeks of abandonment, you can put the notice of eviction on the rental unit’s door in case tenant returns. Write on your notice that you will take back the property if he or she cannot pay the rent on or before the date you specify. You can even send a message to the tenant through email or by any other means of contact that your tenant has in your file. You must put in your notice that you will be filing legal charges for what he or she owes you.
  • Take back the property in a legal way. If your tenant has not made any contact with you after three weeks of posting and mailing the notice, you can now take back the abandoned rental unit. You can change the lock of the rental unit and begin assessing the place. Record evidence that the property has been abandoned such as taking pictures and writing down descriptive notes including the time and date. When you file your charges, these documents will help  make the filing process really fast. After taking all the notes and  totaling  the amount that your tenants need to pay, get the rental unit ready for rent again. Remember, do a tenant credit check screening process to insure that “rental unit abandonment” will not happen again.
  • File your charges in court. Be ready with all the documents you have, the notice you gave them and all the documents that will support your charges. You can contact your lawyer to start the legal proceedings to sue your tenant who abandoned their obligation. This way, you can recover what has been owed from you.

As much as possible, prevent this “rental abandonment” case in your rental property business. You can make this possible if you seek help from a credible tenant screening service provider. They can help you check the prospective tenant’s credit, collection accounts plus get info on their payment patterns, payment history from their previous rental unit, tax liens and much more! By doing this, you can help guarantee that you will get a responsible tenant.

How to Temporarily Lift your Credit Freeze

Did you place a credit freeze on your credit report but now you want to rent a home, condo or apartment?  There are ways to temporarily lift this freeze so that your tenant credit report can be accessed.

If you wish to temporarily lift your Security Freeze with Transunion:

Go online:
It’s the fastest, easiest way to accomplish your goal right now >>

By Telephone:
Call 888-909-8872 if you wish to temporarily lift your Security Freeze. Our interactive voice response system will guide you through the process. Please have ready your Social Security Number, date of birth, Security Freeze PIN, lift type, start and end dates and the payment method to be used to pay the applicable fee, if any, for the service. Please refer to the Security Freeze Table for fees, if any. Under certain circumstances, as defined by state law, you may be eligible for reduced fee or free Security Freeze services. Please note that it may take up to 15 minutes to process your request. It may take longer if you have lost your Security Freeze PIN.

By Mail:
Complete the Lift section of the Security Freeze Form that was sent to you with the Security Freeze information letter (sent to you after you requested the Security Freeze), and mail it to the address shown at the bottom of the form. Please refer to the Security Freeze Table for fees (if any). Under certain circumstances, as defined by state law, you may be eligible for reduced fee or free Security Freeze services. Acceptable forms of payment are check, money order, or credit card (American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa). When selecting the start date for your temporary lift, be sure to allow mail delivery time for your request to reach TransUnion. It may take up to three business days from date of receipt to process your request to temporarily lift the Security Freeze by mail. It may take longer if you have lost the Security Freeze PIN.

Your Credit Report and Renting – What You Need to Know

If you are looking to rent an apartment or a home, you need to be aware that one of the first things that landlords and property managers look at is your credit history and your credit report score as part of the application process. The landlord alone determines what an acceptable credit report score is, so your best offense is knowledge of what your credit report says.

Landlords specifically will look at your employment history, your history of payments with creditors and if you’ve paid these on time or late, and if you’ve declared bankruptcy or struggled with any sort of financial hardship. Any negative feedback on the credit report indicates that you are a financial risk to the landlord. The landlord will also look at how many, if any, credit report requests have been made within a certain time period. This is a sign that you have applied for credit frequently, and as a result that you have many potential debts, either secured or unsecured. The landlord also will see exactly how much debt you have and to whom you owe it, and for how long you have owed it. The landlord considers all of these things when you apply to rent a residence.

The negative items on your credit report that might give a landlord reason or cause to deny your application are many, but all are somewhat related. If you have balances on loans or credit cards that are very high and you are paying only the minimums, or if you have too many creditors, the landlord sees that as low cash flow and you may not be able to afford the rent payment. Even having too little credit history with no references or background information could affect a landlord’s decision to accept your rental application.

Your credit report and score are your financial history. Landlords cannot usually afford to take risks, as they also have bills to pay on their rental properties in the form of taxes, fees, and maintenance. If you do not pay on time, they cannot pay on time, and their credit is subsequently affected. Make sure that you are familiar with what is on your credit report, and be able to discuss it with your landlord. Some may accept a trial period in the form a short-term lease to allow you to prove your financial worthiness. Others may accept an offer of an increased security deposit as an offer of good faith and confidence in ability to pay. Whatever the reason for a landlord’s decision, you should be aware before the process begins of the potential warning signs on your credit report, so there are no surprises for you at the outcome of the application process.

To obtain a free copy of your credit report visit

If you are a landlord or property manager interested in screening a prospective tenant view your tenant credit report options at

FAQs about the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Consumer credits scores profoundly impact a landlord’s decision in screening tenant applicants. Based on the information in the rental application, landlords may run a credit report or credit screening to examine payment history as well as other prior renter information. The Fair Credit Report Act outlines the requirements for credit reporting agencies and the rights that consumers have in accessing and verifying their credit reports. The importance of an accurate credit score cannot be understated; there are a number of common questions about the FCRA and what protections it affords.

What is the purpose of the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

Congress approved the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1970 because of the growing power of credit reporting agencies and the importance of accurate reporting for the banking system. It requires reporting agencies to follow reasonable procedures in keeping consumer credit reports private and accurate. Furthermore credit reporting agencies are required by law to disclose the information collected to that individual. It sets an important tone for the private companies that collect personal data, and outlines the responsibilities they have for maintaining and sharing that sensitive information.

How accessible is my credit report?

Under the permissible purpose doctrine, a credit report can only be accessed by those with a valid reason for doing so. Additionally, individuals are entitled to a free copy of their credit report once a year from the private companies that collect and compile those reports. A report can be requested online from; however it is important to note that there are additional companies that track renter and financial history. Any company that tracks such information is required to disclose a free report once a year. The landlord can assist in confirming what reports they utilize in tenant screening.

Can I change the information in my credit report?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires landlords to notify prospective tenants if their application is denied on the basis of their credit report. The law guarantees that people are not denied based on what may be a deceptive report. If the information is correct regarding prior evictions, damages, or late payments, then better habits can be implemented to improve the report over time. Credit reporting agencies are obligated to expunge any negative information from an individual’s report after seven years. The seven year requirement creates more reasonable expectations of a renter’s ability to make payments. Furthermore, individuals have the right to challenge inaccurate information; credit reporting agencies are in turn required to verify and provide the basis for any negative information in their reports. Regularly accessing your credit report reduces errors associated with outdated information, inaccurate data, and poor ratings stemming from identity theft.

The best place to begin is by accessing your most recent credit score online. First, make sure that the information in the reports is correct. Viewing the report helps clarify what information is collected on you and how it appears to landlords. Understanding the basis for a good credit score is fundamental in creating good habits moving forward. It is just as important to check your reports annually to verify that the information remains correct.

TransUnion Credit Report Codes

ECOA (Equal Credit Opportunity Act) Inquiry and Account Designators
A – Authorized user of shared account
C – Joint contractual liability
I – Individual account for sole use of customer
M – Account for which subject is liable, but co-signer has liability if the maker defaults
P – Participant in shared account which cannot be distinguished as C or A
S – Account for which subject is co-signer and becomes liable if maker defaults
T – Relationship with account terminated
U – Undesignated
X – Deceased

Type of Account

O – Open Account (30, 60 or 90 days)
R – Revolving or Option
I – Installment
M -Mortgage
C -Check credit (line of credit)

Date Indicators
A -Automated
C – Closed
D – Declined
F – Repossessed/Written Off/Collection
I – Indirect
M – Manually Frozen
N – No Record
P – Paid Out
R – Reported
S – Slow Answering
T -Temporarily Frozen
V – Verified
X – No Reply

MOP Current Manner of Payment
00 – Not rated, too new to rate, or approve but not used
01 – Pays as agreed
02 – 30–59 days past the due date
03 – 60–89 days past the due date
04 – 90–119 days past the due date
05 – 120 days or more past the due date
07 – Paying or paid under Wage Earner Plan or similar arrangement
08 – Repossession
8A – Voluntary repossession
8D – Legal repossession
8P – Paying or paid account with MOP 08
8R – Repossession; redeemed
09 – Charged off to bad debt
9B – Collection account
9P – Paying or paid account with MOP 09 or 9B
UC – Unclassified
UR – Unrated

KOB Kind of Business Classifications
A -Automotive
B – Banks and S&L
C – Clothing
D – Department, Variety and Other Retail
E – Employment
F – Finance, Personal
G – Groceries
H – Home Furnishings
I – Insurance
J – Jewelry, Cameras and Computers
K – Contractors
L – Lumber, Building Material, Hardware
M – Medical and Related Health
N – Credit Card and Travel/Entertainment
O – Oil Companies
P – Personal Services Other Than Medical
Q – Finance Companies, Other Than Personal Finance Companies
R – Real Estate and Public Accommodations
S – Sporting Goods
T – Farm and Garden Supplies
U – Utilities and Fuel
V – Government
W – Wholesale
X – Advertising
Y – Collection
Z – Miscellaneous

Information provided by TransUnion  June, 2011

Reasons for Renters Insurance

Renters insurance, like homeowner insurance, is sold as a package. Renters insurance provides coverage for your personal belongings and personal liability (legal responsibility) in the same way that a homeowner policy does. However, rental policies do not provide coverage for the value of the building you rent, so the premium for tenant coverage is low.

Reasons for Renters Insurance: Typically, the homeowner’s policy that covers the building you live in does NOT offer any protection for your property, your cost to find other housing, or your personal liability. If you rent an apartment or a home, you will not always be required to have renter insurance by the lease, but without it you are often left out in the cold if the building is damaged or you are a victim of theft. Renters insurance will also cover you if someone is injured in your home or elsewhere due to your negligence.

Renters Insurance for College Living:

  • If you live on-campus: Check and see if your belongings are covered under your parent’s homeowners policy. If a student is a dependent under their parent’s insurance coverage, their personal belongings may be covered in the event of a covered loss.
  • If you live off-campus: Consider purchasing renters insurance. Renters insurance will provide coverage if your property is destroyed or stolen, or if someone is injured on your rental property due to your negligence. If you are dependent on your parents’ insurance, check with their agent or insurance company to see if the coverage extends to a dependent living away at school.

Multiple Roommates: Renters insurance usually covers you or any relative you live with. If you live with non-relative roommates, each of you would need your own renters insurance policy to cover personal belongings and personal liabilities. Check your insurance policy contract or talk to your agent or insurance company for more details.

Selecting an insurer for renters insurance

Coverage and costs vary greatly by company. It’s important to shop when choosing an insurance company. Comparison shopping takes a little more time, but it can save you money!

  • The key to comparison shopping is knowing what coverage you need and then getting premium estimates (rate quotes) from a number of insurers. Each policy should provide the same amount of protection for your home, its personal contents, liability protection, and medical payment coverage. If you want full replacement-value protection on your house and personal items, make sure this coverage is included in all policies you consider.
  • Renters insurance companies use one of three methods to sell their products.
    • Independent agents represent several companies and can give you several quotes.
    • Exclusive agents only sell the products of one insurance company.
    • Direct market sales are over the Internet or by mail or telephone.

    You can find insurance companies and agents through the phone book, on the Internet and television and by asking friends and neighbors.

  • Have the agent explain the exclusions and limitations in the contract and quote options for perils like flood and earthquake that are not covered under the standard policy.
  • Cost is just one factor to consider when choosing an insurance company. It’s also important to look at the company’s financial condition and how it treats its policyholders. A company’s financial information is available from the agent that represents the company.
  • It’s illegal for unlicensed insurers or agents to sell insurance. Business cards aren’t proof that an agent is licensed. If you do business with an unlicensed agent or company, it might not pay your claims or refund your premiums if you cancel your policy. If an unlicensed agent or company contacts you, check with your state insurance department immediately, so it can investigate. Your actions may protect someone else from being victimized.

Questions you should ask the agent

  • Are the agent and the insurance company licensed by my state insurance department? For how long?
  • How can I find out the claims history of the home before I buy it?
  • If I submit a claim, how will it affect my premium when I renew the policy?
  • What discounts are available?
  • What does the policy cover? What doesn’t it cover? What are the limits to the coverages?
  • How much coverage for my personal property do I need?
  • Should I buy flood insurance or earthquake coverage?
  • How will my credit history affect my premium?
  • Underwriting standards

Underwriting standards are rules insurance companies use to decide whether to insure your property. A company may decline your application for coverage if your property does not meet its underwriting standards. Each company has its own underwriting requirements, but typical ones include:

  • Age, condition, and square footage of your home
  • Property upkeep and maintenance
  • Type of construction (brick, frame, stucco, etc.)
  • Exterior lighting or security systems
  • Home value and proximity to fire protection

Hurricane Preparation Checklist for Landlords and Property Managers

preparedness_checklistWith over 30 years of combined experience in credit reporting, background screening and information services, the StarPoint team is here to provide you with the very best in products, technology and service.

Below we have create a few checklist that may be beneficial to you as a landlord or property manager in the instance a hurricane or storm is near.


Gather Important Information:
•    Make note important phone numbers and information
o    Nearest Hurricane Shelter:
o    Map of Evacuation Route(s):
o    Local Police Department:
o    Local Fire Department:
o    Insurance Company, Phone Number and Policy Number:
o    Tenant’s Emergency Contact Info: (Tenant Name, Where evacuating, emergency phone numbers)
•    Notify friends and family of your plan

Contact your Tenants
•    Give your Emergency Contact Information to your tenants
•    Get your tenant’s emergency contact information
•    Ask your tenants to park vehicles against the garage door and keep the gas tank full
•    Move furniture away from exposed windows and doors
•    Take all pets indoors to shelter them from the storm
•    Ask them to fill bathtubs and sinks with water in case water supply in interrupted or contaminated; turn off main water to house
•    Garden tools, awnings and grills should be anchored or sheltered
•    Set the refrigerator on maximum cold; do not open unless necessary; keep a full stock of non perishable items and canned foods
•    Stay in central room or on the downwind side of the house; move to another room as wind direction changes
•    Close all windows and storm shutters
•    Bring all lawn furniture inside or store it
•    Turn off propane tanks

Protect your Property
•    Turn off main gas valve before the storm hits
•    Install storm panels, plywood, or shutters over all windows, skylights, doors and open vents; tape exposed glass to protect from shattering
•    Prune dead or dying tree limbs
•    Insert wedges in sliding patio doors; if not protected, damaging winds will lift them off their tracks and blow them into the house
•    Elevate appliances and furniture off the floor and cover with plastic
•    Keep swimming pools filled to 12 inches below the edge; cover the filter pump and turn off the electricity; add additional chlorine
•    Lower radio and television antennas, protect satellite dishes
•    Close all outdoor electrical outlets and cover with duct tape
•    Secure garage and porch doors

Red Cross Supply Checklist for you and your tenant(s)
Provided by The Red Cross – (View PDF)

•    Water at least a 3-day supply; one gallon per person per day
•    Food—at least a 3-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
•    Flashlight
•    Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
•    Extra batteries
•    First aid kit
•    Medications (7-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
•    Multi-purpose tool
•    Sanitation and personal hygiene items
•    Copies of personal documents(medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
•    Cell phone with chargers
•    Family and emergency contact information
•    Extra cash
•    Emergency blanket
•    Map(s) of the area
•    Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
•    Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
•    Tools/supplies for securing your home
•    Extra set of car keys and house keys
•    Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
•    Rain gear
•    Insect repellent and sunscreen
•    Camera for photos of damage

Checklist for After the Hurricane?
Provided by The Red Cross – (View PDF)
•    Let your family know you’re safe
•    Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
•    Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
•    If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
•    Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.
•    Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
•    Stay out of any building that has water around it.
•    Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes.
•    Use flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles.
•    Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
•    Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
•    Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
•    Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control.
•    Use the telephone only for emergency calls.