Tenant Screening

Hello Landlords,

Any advice on which online services to use for comprehensive tenant screening? And what should I look out for when reviewing credit scores etc. Esp to identify potential white-collar trouble makers like that Prof story from Berkeley.

I used Smartmove


They look for past court records and credit reports. That’s helpful. Ask for references and actually talk with them. But the most important thing is to see them eye to eye. I also like to bring my wife to this type of personal vetting. Different people, especially of different genders, are tuned to different things.

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I used http://www.tsci.com/

Ditto. Trust but verify, so I rely on my instinct of talking with them, but verify their history.

I can’t stress this point enough. Meeting with potential tenants is really key. Bring a woman if you are a man, or the opposite, in those meetings. That’s something I wish I could do with my PM-managed tenants. Most PM’s just rent to the first set of tenants who pass the minimum threshold. This is to protect their own butts more than looking after owners’ interests.

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Thanks manch and myo. I’ll check out both resources and keep your advice in mind.

I am not able to figure out the pricing for smartmove on their website. Do you recall what did they charge per applicant?

They charge the applicants not landlords. I think the fee is $25 per person or something like that.


I used the smartmove last time, but I found out this later too: https://cozy.co/for-landlords/tenant-screening

Cozy can do more like collecting rent and such.

Which one has more detailed reporting? Cozy or Smartmove?

For rent I just use Chase’ QuickPay. Is it QuickPay or ChasePay? I can never distinguish the two… No fees. But @ptiemann once warned about electronic payment. I think he said if tenants only pay part of the rent, then technically they are not really in default and you can’t evict them? Don’t remember the details.

There has been extensive discussion of electronic payments on biggerpockets.com

Yes, in some (?) states (jurisdictions?) accepting a partial statement stops the eviction process. I have heard / read it, luckily not personally experienced it.

3rd party systems like Cozy have the disadvantage that tenants are leary of giving their data (account numbers) to such a company. Some are also not experienced enough to pass the accout verification (2 random deposits less than $1 and withdrawals)

Tenants are more comfortable using a bill payment system that is offered by the bank they are with already.

Note that some (most?) of these payment systems allow the tenant to reverse the transaction, as much as 20 days later. CHASE QuickPay, WF Surepay, BofA Popmoney… these are all ACH transactions which you can challenge as fraudulent… and get reversed.

It’s like putting stop on a rent check.

There is a payment system where tenants can pay in any 7-11 and many other places, for a very small charge ($3?), and this system allows the landlord to specify the amount that needs to be paid.
A partial payment is not possible.

It is called PAYNEARME

I guess at the end of the day there must be some level of trust between landlord and tenants. There is no 100% foolproof system if one is coming from bad faith.

I guess the most secure payment system is bitcoin then? There is no clawback. Once it’s paid it’s paid.

So if the tenant makes a $1 deposit to your account every month, you won’t be able to evict him?

I heard an eviction horror story in Oakland. A tenant did not pay for 6 months, the landlord filed eviction, but the tenant asks for Jury trial. Due to the expensiveness of a jury trial, the landlord is suggested to settle with tenant. Condition is to waive the past due 6 month rent, let the tenant live free for another 2 months and pay the tenant $1500. Is this case an exception or a norm in Oakland? It’s for a single family house with no rent control, btw.

Is Oakland law even crazier than San Francisco?

Yea, I’ve heard the danger of giving your account number or using service like Cozy in case you want your tenant to stop paying (either for partial payment like eviction or you are giving notice to end the tenancy).

What do you guys do today? I have one tenant deposit directly to my account. And others sending me money order.

Are we talking rent money? Direct deposit, easily.

Yes, monthly rent. How does your tenant do direct deposit? They have your bank account number to deposit to?

Correct. What I might do, if you are worried, is set up a separate checking account expressly for rental activity only (so no personal stuff). Def useful too when it comes to tax time when compiling data.