As the credit industry and the federal regulations that control it change with every passing year, the engaged landlord and property manager must change along with them. Just a decade ago, an individual landlord had no chance of performing a credit check on a potential tenant without involving a private investigator or going directly to the credit bureaus. Just five years ago, landlords had virtually no access to nationwide criminal record repositories. And only a year ago, applicant-initiated tenant screening was essentially no existent.
For history’s sake, let’s review a few of the major changes in tenant screening that have occurred over the last few years.
1. Criminal Background Checks
Tenant screening used to be entirely focused on an applicant’s credit worthiness, with less than 15% of landlords running criminal background checks in 2000. Today, criminal data is accepted industry-wide as a critical component of tenant screening with over 95% of active landlords performing criminal record checks as a component of their tenant screening.
The obvious question is what accounts for this significant increase? To start, technological advances have dramatically altered the tenant screening landscape. Criminal data has become more accessible and affordable as courts and county-level data providers have actively begun consolidating court records online. As the renter population became increasingly mobile, these online databases helped overcome data challenges with screening out-of-state applicants. Additionally, state courts began ruling that property managers would risk potential liability if they failed to use available resources to identify and reject criminal applicants, such as sex offenders or terrorists, which may threaten the safety of other residents. All of these factors increased the value of criminal screening and led the multifamily industry to embrace it.
2. Simplifying the Tenant Screening Process
The multifamily trend to simplify and consolidate systems has changed how we all do business. People wanted consolidated databases that could provide all the information necessary in a single sitting. The overabundance of different logins, platforms, search mechanisms, etc. was exhausting. In response, the background and tenant screening industry embraced XML integration so that different platforms and databases could connect and “talk” to each other. Because of this increased integration, companies like AccuRental Tenant Screening are able to provide instant credit, criminal, and eviction history through a single platform.
3. Expanded Services
Less than a decade ago, tenant screening analytics were limited because of higher costs and technological limitations. Today’s much improved data infrastructure and visualization tools make it possible to generate executive screening analytics more frequently, with faster delivery and better quality. AccuRental recognized the value of using analytics to gain insight into screening performance and established a team of expert account managers to help clients apply screening analytics to improve their business.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) has also led to positive developments in the services that tenant / background screening firms offer. AccuRental Tenant Screening, for example, provides a “soft-inquiry” tenant credit review option for prospective applicants that are worried about providing sensitive information to landlords or for the negative effect a “hard inquiry” could have on their credit score. Through applicant-initiated tenant screening options, the applicant need only provide an email address to the landlord during the application process. The tenant screening company then uses that email address to credit a secured and encrypted form for the applicant to enter his/her identification information and consent to the credit review. This produces a “soft hit,” which has zero effect on the applicant’s credit score.
4. Streamlining Dispute Resolution
Today, credit monitoring services and the high exposure of digital identity theft has caused prospective renters to become much more aware of their personal data and its potential implications. As a result, they are more likely to challenge property managers and data providers if they suspect inaccuracies or discrimination. Consequently, it is invaluable to handle applicant disputes in a responsive way because you never want to wrongly reject a qualified applicant. Recognizing the importance of this, AccuRental has employed an applicant dispute process into our screening program to help our clients resolve these issues professionally.
The rental industry must be forward thinking and work together to create a bigger and better future. As an industry leader in developing resident screening best practices, AccuRental will continue to embrace technology to deliver the most value for our clients. AccuRental looks forward to the challenge of staying ahead of trends and leading innovation in the decade to come.
AccuRental Tenant Screening is a premier resident screening firm, providing innovative applicant-initiated tenant screening solutions at a cost far below what the credit bureaus charge.
This article originally appeared on 24-7pressrelease