How Do I Read a Tenant Screening Report?

Read and understand the screening report.

Melissa avatar
Written by Melissa
Updated over a week ago

When you opt to use TurboTenant for your tenant screening, you will not only enjoy the fact that it is a free service for landlords, but you will also enjoy the easy-to-read format of the screening report.

The report includes a simple overview of the applicant and more in-depth sections. These sections contain extremely valuable information but also contain terminology you might need to be more familiar with.

To make the tenant screening process even simpler for you, this guide will help you read the entirety of the tenant screening report. Click here to learn the difference between an application and a screening report.

Table of Contents

Key Terms

Most of a screening report is straightforward information that is easy to understand.

However, some of the terms used in a tenant screening report could be confusing if you have never heard them used before. Below is a quick terminology guide that you can use as a point of reference for your screening report.

Overview Section

As pictured above, the first part of the report is the snapshot. This is a quick overview of the applicant and gives you valuable information, such as their credit score, the number of criminal records found, evictions on record, employers on file, accounts in collection, and public records.

This section is valuable for landlords who are seeking applicants with a specific credit score. The numbers will appear in red, orange, yellow, or green, depending on the credit score's high or low.

At the top of the snapshot, you will see a credit recommendation. This is the information we receive directly from the credit reporter, and it is not our own recommendation.

It is also important to note that the credit recommendation is based solely on the applicant’s credit score. It does not consider any criminal records, evictions, or other information from the report.

This recommendation is based on the following bar graph:

Another important thing to note about this section of the screening report is that the number of employers reported may be less than 100 percent accurate, due to the lag in employment reporting to credit agencies.

As a landlord, you need to verify your current employment and check references on your own. The applicant also reports their own income, which means you need to verify their income to ensure accuracy independently. If you want an easier way to verify income, you can utilize our Income Insights tool, which checks applicant-reported income against data from TransUnion.

Be aware, that if you decide to deny an applicant based on information in their credit report, you’ll need to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act rules regarding notifying them.

Description Section: Score Factors & Criminal Records

This section will give you detailed information about any criminal records found during the background check*. If the applicant has no criminal background, this area will read “no available data.”

In this section, you will find each record's case number and court information. You can use this information to contact the court to learn more about the criminal records, or, when applicable, you can look up the description number to find out what charges are on the applicant’s record.

*Disclaimer- Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming are states that TransUnion will not provide criminal history for.

National Sex Offender State, Federal Watch Lists, and National Most Wanted Databases are NOT impacted.

Profile Summary: Tradelines, Collections, & Public Records

This section may need to be clarified at first glance. However, if you use the terminology guide from above, you can break down the information quickly.

  • Tradelines are simply accounts that the applicant has open, such as car loans, credit cards, or mortgages.

  • Collections numbers reflect how many accounts they currently have in collections.

  • Public records numbers include items like tax liens and civil judgments (with further details provided later in the report).

  • Negative tradelines are accounts for which payments have been missed.

  • Historical numbers reflect how often the applicant’s accounts have missed payments.

Accounts, Balances, & Past Dues

This section provides details about each type of account, whether it is something with an installment payment plan, revolving (such as credit cards), or a mortgage. This section also informs you of how much is owed and how much is past due.

You can also see the total balance owed on all accounts, the total past due amount owed, and the credit limit the applicant has left.

In this example, this report shows a credit limit of $475, which is extremely low. The total past due here is $10,067, which would alert you that this applicant is in financial trouble.

This is why income verification is very important. Someone may have multiple tradelines with large monthly payments, but if they have the income to back this up, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

However, if they have multiple accounts that are past due, you might have a concern about their ability to pay rent on time. Make income verification easier with Income Insights.

Calendar of Payments

This section of the screening report will show you a calendar of payments.

This will let you know with green check marks when payments were made on time and with yellow, orange, and red circles the number of days a payment has been late.

This section will help you see how often the applicant misses payments or makes payments on time.

Collection Totals

This section provides information for applicants who have had accounts sent to collections. If they have nothing in collections, there will not be information here.

However, in this example above, you can see how many accounts are in collections, the details of what is owed, and the credit grantor's name.

Public Records

This section will show you what public records are on file for the applicant. These include tax liens and civil judgments.

This section will also give you details about the records and the dates they were reported.

Eviction Records

View a prospective tenant's eviction history** in this section of the report.

**Disclaimer- New York eviction histories are no longer displayed on reports to be in accordance with state laws.

Why You Should Screen Your Tenants Thoroughly

As a landlord, your goal is to find a responsible tenant who pays on time and respects your property. Our goal at TurboTenant is to help you do that through detailed tenant screening reports.

While, ultimately, the decision will be up to you as to who you accept and decline, you can use tenant screening to effectively learn important details about an applicant's background.

Remember, always abide by Fair Housing regulations and ensure you use standard criteria for all applicants when determining who you will accept or reject. Also, be aware that if you deny an applicant based on information in their credit report, you’ll need to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act rules regarding notifying the applicant. If you are uncertain about how best to handle the rejection and acceptance portion of the screening, consult with a local attorney for advice.

TurboTenant Inc. does not provide legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. All users are advised to check all applicable local, state, and federal laws and consult legal counsel should questions arise. Updated 11/15/23

Still have questions? Reach out to our Support Team via chat or by email at [email protected].

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