TransUnion is a consumer credit reporting agency, meaning that they collect and report data about people’s credit scores to people in charge of giving jobs, loans, rental property, etc. If you are a property owner or manager, you will find it useful to look up TransUnion’s rental screening services.
What is SmartMove?
SmartMove is a rental screening solution first launched in 2010, for companies or people who manage property on a smaller scale, and don’t have the resources to set up their own system for rental screening. It is aimed at helping you make better decisions by obtaining accurate information about your applicants’ rental history, criminal record, and credit score.
How to use SmartMove: A step by step guide
Create account and application
To begin with, you have to create a login ID using your email, and by creating some security questions. You are also asked to enter some details about your business. Once the account is created, you can save your details. Every time you log in, there is a two step authentication process to be completed.
Then you have to create an application by filling a form with details like your property ID, address, zip code, etc. Here, you have the option to place a filter on the applications you see. The software asks if you would like to exclude applicants with bankruptcies in any period of time.
You have to obtain the email ID of an applicant so that you can mail them the application. The applicant will receive an email saying that their property owner wants to do a background check on them, and needs their permission so that they can get a report on their credit score, criminal record, etc.
Applicant screening form
Once they click on the request to accept it, the applicants are directed to a link in order to create an account on SmartMove. They have to create an account with email ID and security questions, enter their personal information, and enter income and employment information. The last steps are payment details and identity verification.
Delivery of report
Since applicants have already authorized the sharing of their information by clicking on the email, you can see the form as soon as they submit it. You can see their application ID, the status of their application, and if completed, their rent to income ratio as per self report, and the ResidentScore.
After this, what kind of reports you can access would depend on what plan you have opted for. From here on, we will review all kinds of reports that are included in the profile, but that would only be possible if you have taken their most expensive plan.
Now you can also access their credit report, which includes a social security number match, and an overview of their profile. Here, apart from income, you will also see information about their debt, which will give you a more complete idea about their ability to pay rent.
You can also access their criminal record, which includes any accounts of being arrested, being on most wanted lists, having their name in the National Sex Offender registry, etc. Additional reports include Income Insights; we will discuss this in the later part of the article.
SmartMove offers a pay-as-you-go pricing structure, meaning that there are no subscription and set up fees. The costs depend solely on the number of reports generated. Moreover, you can decide whether you want to pay the screening fee yourself, or charge it to the applicants.
You can choose from three plans- the basic plan starts at $25 per report, and it includes a resident score and criminal background check. The $40 plan also includes credit and eviction history report. Finally, the $43 plan additionally offers a report on the applicant’s income.
SmartMove’s credit reports come from TransUnion, which is one of the three major credit bureaus in USA- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. TransUnion maintains a database of credit histories and criminal records, which is utilised for generating reports.
However, in light of recent events involving a class action lawsuit against TransUnion for misreporting data in reports, this information should be taken with a pinch of salt.
TransUnion has created ResidentScore, a type of renter credit score, that they claim, predicts evictions 15% better. In this system, the applicant is given a score ranging from 350-850, based on payment history, credit use, credit availability, etc.
In April 2018, SmartMove launched a feature called Income Insights, wherein you can check whether an applicant’s reported credit score aligns with their self disclosed income. Based on information about income, the software may recommend you to ask the applicant to provide additional data about their income, e.g. a copy of their most recent pay check.
Problem of unresponsive applicants
As we saw in the step by step guide, the property owner has to send an email to the applicant, requesting them to grant permission for obtaining their report for background check. If the applicant does not respond to this email, the process comes to a halt.
In some cases, property owners see this as an opportunity to rule out applicants who are not responsive and committed. But at times, this can be an honest mistake, e.g., the email might be sent to the wrong email ID, or it may go in the spam folder. Hence, there needs to be a mechanism to fill this gap in communication between the property owner and the applicant.
Criminal data unavailable in some states
If the applicant has a criminal record in Colorado, Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming or Massachusetts, you won’t be able to access this information in the report, because they charge extra to consumer reporting agencies for access to their data.
This also means that if the applicant has recently moved to a new state, and their criminal record is clean, they might have a record in their previous state of residence, which you wouldn’t know about.
If you are a property manager looking for better ways of screening your prospective tenants, SmartMove is a popular tool that you can use to obtain a reliable background check report on your applicant. We hope this article provided a comprehensive review of pros and cons of using this tool, so that you can make more informed decisions for your business!