Which Tenant Screening Service is Best?

There are many factors that go into a successful tenant screening.  One piece of the puzzle is a screening service that shows you credit risk and criminal history.  So which tenant screening service is best?

(Note: This article was first published July 2014. Since then we have affiliated with SmartScreen, which is one of the few services that we actually recommend. They now pay us a small commission. Our intent is to stop taking these commissions the moment they no longer become the best provider. Please use the comments and info@masslandlords.net to suggest corrections or new providers.)

Tenant Screening Service Qualifications

We believe that a screening service should offer the following:

  • Competitive price
  • Actual credit report information
  • A trusted credit score
  • Criminal history in relevant states

In Massachusetts, we specifically don't care about sex offender searches or eviction history.  Why? Because these are freely available to anyone with an Internet connection.

Check for registered sex offenders in Massachusetts.

Search by name for evictions in Massachusetts.

Members only: Search by address for evictions in Massachusetts.

Which credit scores are trusted scores?

Common knowledge says the gold standard in tenant screening is a FICO score (Fair Isaac Corporation). Unfortunately, common knowledge is not quite right. FICO scores are used by lenders to determine whether you can get a loan. FICO scores range from 350 to 850, just like the credit bureau scores, but FICO is not a credit bureau score.

The "big three" credit bureaus -- Transunion, Experian, and Equifax -- sell credit data to landlords that looks like a FICO score but is not. It has the same range of possible values, 350 to 850. Arguably this reduces confusion: everyone knows that a 350 is "bad". But if you don't know where your data are coming from, having the same number doesn't help you know whether it applies to rentals. A 350 FICO means you are a risk for loans but may not be relevant to rentals.

In October 2015, MassLandlords asked Transunion to confirm what they were basing their data off of. They said they were not reselling FICO data. In fact, they showed us that a person who scores 742 on FICO scores 801 on TransUnion. They told us at that time that their landlord product was scored on a range from 0 to 1000. Since then, they reduce the range of possible scores from 1000 back down to 850. But it's still not FICO data.

The three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Transuion) all license a "VantageScore," which has a range of 350 to 850. Or you can get a proprietary score from either of the three using data from just their separate records.

TransUnion is the leader in the rental space. Their "ResidentScore" (also 350 to 850) aims to take into account eviction history and other metrics related to screening directly.

Why is it hard to find a good Screening Service?

Federal law requires that consumer information be protected from prying eyes.  You're a consumer, too, so you also benefit from these safeguards.

The safeguards are codified in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Landlords are allowed to view credit reports only under Section 604(a)3F-1, because they are a person with a "legitimate business need ... in connection with a business transaction that is initiated by the consumer."

Section 607(e)2A requires that resellers of consumer information, like screening companies, take reasonable measures to ensure that only legitimate landlords see tenant reports, and only for legitimate screening.

This has resulted in many screening companies utilizing an "on site inspection."  A contractor working for the screening company will visit your home and verify that you have a locked filing cabinet, a password-protected computer, and a shredder.

The law doesn't call for these things, so we aren't sure whether they're a regulation or just a corporate "cya" practice.  Regardless, the on-site inspections are a reality for many screening companies.

We wanted to find a screening company that would work for small-time landlords who want to avoid an on-site inspection. This means, non-FICO. The best reports are therefore the ones that give real details, so that you can draw your own conclusion without getting stuck on a single questionable number.

Review of Tenant Screening Services

We have read the websites of, spoken with, or tested screening service companies in the table below. Please note that this data is updated as frequently as the date shown above, but individual pieces of data may become out of date. If you see an error, please email us at hello@masslandlords.net.

How to use the table below

Click columns to sort or type in the search box to filter rows containing that text.

  • Rec: One of our shortlist recommendations, see below the table.
  • $/yr: Annual membership/fee.
  • $/rpt: Price per report. Some services charge separate report fees for each social security number, some allow you to bundle related applicants; we do not differentiate. Some services charge the landlord while others charge the applicant; since Massachusetts lessors cannot use renter pay services, we do not list "$0" anywhere, see ∇. If you are a broker but not a lessor, these services may be free for you.
  • 186: whether this service is compliant with MGL Chapter 186 Section 15B, which prohibits lessors from charging. An "✘" means the applicant must pay; lessors cannot use an "✘" service without reimbursing applicants. You can ignore "✘" only if you are a licensed broker, because brokers can charge applicants. A "∇" (yield sign) means you have the choice: be careful, choice is the power to make a mistake. A "✔" means this service is compliant because the lessor must pay; brokers can still charge the applicant.
  • Full? whether you receive actual trade histories or just a number
  • Source: the source of the credit data
  • US Crim: whether nationwide criminal included is included in the given price.
  • MA Crim: whether MA county criminal are included in the given price. Note that CORI is never included. Note also that county criminal records, which are more thorough, take time.
  • Sex: whether any kind of sex offender registry check is included in the given price.
  • Instant: whether you can get access online instantly or you need to pass an office site inspection.

Tenant Screening Service Comparison

NameRec$/yr$/rpt186Full?SourceUS CrimMA CrimSexInstant
AmerUSA Standard$0$26.95FICOUNK
Apartments.com $0$29.00TransUnion
Background Examine Credit Report$0$15.00FICO
Background Examine Basic$0$28.95FICO
Background Examine PremiumA$0$35FICO
Background Examine Ultimate$0$55FICO
Capitol City Background Reporting Basic$0$13.95 Single Applicant FICO
Capitol City Background Reporting Basic Plus$0$23.50 Single Applicant
$36.98 Co-Applicant
Capitol City Background Reporting Premium$0$38.50 Single Applicant
$50.98 Co-Applicant
ClearScreening Tenant ScreeningB$0$14.95TransUnion & FICO
ClearScreening Tenant Screening + US Criminal$0$34.90TransUnion & FICO
ClearScreening Tenant Screening + US Criminal + Manual County$0$43.85TransUnion & FICO
Cozy Background$0$24.99 Single BackgroundExperian
Cozy Credit Report$0$24.99 Single Credit ReportExperian
Cozy Both Reports$0$39.99 Background & Credit ReportExperian
$0$31.95 landlord pays plus $2.49 tenant paysFICOUNK
$0$36.95 landlord pays plus $2.49 tenant paysFICOUNK
Equifax$0Only deals with Entities
must call to get pricing
Experian, Equifax, Transunion, FICO
Experian$0$14.95 + taxExperian, Vantage Score
First Advantage$0$20Equifax, Experian, Transunion
Listing 2 Leasing$0$39.99* Pricing may vary at brokerages depending on products selectedEquifax, Experian, TransunionUNK
MyRental.com Basic$0$24.99UNKUNK
MyRental.com Premium$0$34.99SafeRent Score UNK
National Tenant Network (NTN)$35
One time Fee
$20Equifax, Experian and TransUnionUNKUNK
RentApplication$0$39.95 for all three reportsFICO, Vantage Report, ExperianUNK
Rentec DirectDepends on units owned$18 for Premium Screening packageTransUnion, FICOUNKUNK
RentPrep Background Check$0$21.00
RentPrep SmartMove$0$38.00Transunion
Screening Services.com$0$38None
SmartScreenB$0$30TransUnion, FICO
Tenant Alert Premier$0$49.95Experian, TransUnion or Equifax
Tenant Alert Pro$0$39.95Experian, TransUnion or Equifax
Tenant Alert Plus$0$29.95Experian, TransUnion or Equifax
Tenant Magic$0*UNK*Transunion
TenantTracks Open Access$0$35.00Transunion
TenantTracks Optimum10$64.00 one time fee for site inspection. $35.99 compliance fee. (compliance fee waived for users running 50+ reports/yr)$27.00Transunion
Tenant Turnerper month, per residential unit (minimum $50)UNKNone
TenantReports.com$0$30-45Experian, Equifax, TransUnion or FICO
Transunion MySmartMove Basic$0$25TransUnion
Transunion MySmartMove Plus$0$40TransUnion
Transunion MySmartMove Premium$0$44TransUnion
Turbo Tenant$0$45Transunion
Verify Tenant Silver Package$0$20None

∇* Danger: Under MA law, lessors cannot require the renter to pay. Only require a tenant to pay if you are a licensed broker renting a premises for which you are not the lessor. Read more information here.

International services

  • Nova Credit (unevaluated option)

Discontinued services

Some landlords still talk about services they used to use, or they may still use because they are grandfathered in. Please note that the following services have been removed from the table above because they are no longer taking new landlord customers. They may offer other background screening services (e.g., employment, private investigation).

  • Kroll Factual Data
  • Worcester Record Search

Recommendations from the Table

Our recommendations are in order, varying by the landlord and market type.

A: Background Examine

Target: small to large landlord who wants the most thorough criminal checks, or an employer.

Background Examine is a Massachusetts-based company that accesses county, state, national and even international criminal records. They offer a variety of pricepoints and custom solutions especially for screening renters coming in from abroad (international credit cannot be checked, but international criminal can). Also works for employment screens.

B: SmartScreen

Target: small landlord who can't pass an office inspection, doesn't find a wealth of great applicants each vacancy.

If you find there are few good applicants in your market, you should be looking at SmartScreen and paying for the report yourself. This service has been recommended since we first published this article July 1, 2014, and remains good bang for your buck. You don't need to pass an on-site inspection. Your renter will need to have email. MassLandlords receives an affiliate commission.

What's the deal with Massachusetts Criminal Records?

The Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information system, or CORI, places access restrictions.  Until recently landlords weren't even allowed to get a report.  Now you can, and you can get more access than a background check agency. Don't take our word for it, it's the law. Access to iCORI costs $25 and requires special authorization.


Who Should Pay for the On-Site Inspection?

If you have four units or more turning over in any given year, you'll save money by going through an on-site inspection for a lower per-report cost.  The on-site inspections aren't too bad and usually can take place within a week.  You'll need to password protect your computer, have a locked filing cabinet, and a shredder.  You'll also need a legitimate home office.  Depending on the inspector, you can't use your kitchen table.

If you qualify, you want to be looking at ClearScreening or CBAN.  ClearScreening is good if you like computers.  CBAN is good if you don't*.  ClearScreening charges only one $75 fee to start (not shown in the table above) but then you have to take a computer-based Fair Credit Reporting Act quiz once per year.  It takes about half an hour, so most landlords will play less at ClearScreening than at CBAN.  CBAN charges the most per year but doesn't require the quiz, and offers better phone support.


Did we miss your provider of choice?  Let us know and we'll review them! Email info@masslandlords.net

Errata and Updates:

2015 March 4: Since this article was published, we have received numerous calls and emails from screening providers who were left off of this list. We will add providers as long as the new providers are legitimately different and not just different labels of the same underlying service. We will correct prices etc. as information is presented to us.

We have also received a letter from CBAN, who disagree with our statement that "CBAN is good if you don't [like computers]." According to CBAN, "CBAN does offer immediate access to consumer reports 24/7 with a simple to use web interface." The last we spoke with them, this web interface was only for customers who first pass an on-site inspection. We have clarified that column in the above table accordingly ("immediate access (no inspection)"). Also, they do not have a marketing website, so you will have to sign up via phone before you can see their technology.

2015 August 6: We have updated the price of SmartScreen.

2016 August 19: Updated pricing for previously listed providers. Changed "Actual Score" column to show "Type of Score". Added Cozy, Zumper, ScreeningServices.com, and AmerUSA.

2018 September 24: Updated pricing for previously listed providers.

2018 December 12: Updated "renter pays" guidance.

2020 October 8: Updated pricing for previously listed providers.

Related Pages:

Members only, See Sample Reports Provided by BackgroundExamine:

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66 Responses to Which Tenant Screening Service is Best?

    • John cheffro says:

      Just got the same thing from Tenant Background Search. Did not give any criminal history even though the tenant admitted to such.

      Also not a great site for credit check.

  1. Douglas Quattrochi says:


    On October 11, on the basis of some improvements SmartScreen made for us, we decided to start recommending SmartScreen as the “best value” for landlords who do not qualify to receive an on-site inspection.

    You can support MassLandlords.net by clicking the affiliate links for SmartScreen on our site.

  2. Gerry Alperus says:

    Hi all, I’ve had really good success with a company called Houserie.com. Their reports are really easy to navigate and read. Pricing is pretty competitive compared to other company’s I’ve used in the past. I have to say, their phone customer service is exceptional. Everytime I called someone would either pick up or call me back within a few hours.

  3. Megan Dimas says:

    MyScreeningReport.com offers an applicant initiated product that provides credit report with score, criminal and eviction records as well as sex offender and terrorist list database searches. One of the biggest ways that they stand out is that they also search AKA’s at not additional cost. Their comprehensive report even includes rental and employment history not something you see offered with these types of reports. The reports are not instant but instant doesn’t mean high quality. MyScreeningReport.com has trained investigators doing the necessary legwork to make sure that a complete and accurate report is returned. Great solutions for individual rental owners!

  4. Honest abe says:

    E-renter.com is a complete sham and scam. They are milking poor landlords and potential renters. Don’t waste your time or money on this sham service. There are better legitimate services out there for landlords.

  5. P. Christy says:

    Tenant Background Search will use what the tenant says is their income, not the real income. I have had 4 prospective tenant apps come through this way in 2015. The last 2 listed income at $12000.00 & $24000.00 per month. This is what Tenant Background Search included on their report. Turns out that tenants made a mistake with zero’s. $1200.00 & $2400.00 So how is this an accurate report if they are just recording tenant information & not searching?

    • Troy says:

      Hello P. Christy
      you can use First advantage screening that can help you with that.

      if you need help just email me thank you

  6. D says:

    Most of the tenant screening companies use the information provided by the applicant. They call the person the applicant puts as the landlord (often a friend) and if they give good info…. Always check the address on their ID and check the tax assessed owner of the address. If the address they have on their ID is not the same as the application?

    Finding evictions in OR can be more difficult as there is no central location and you must call several court houses asking.

    I keep hoping some Oregon landlord group will keep lists of evictions!

  7. Anonymous says:

    My office uses myrental.com which I do not recommend. I have never written a negative online review and I went out of my way to warn anyone thinking of using myrental just don’t!

    • Troy says:

      you can email me so I can help you switch to a better company that you can use going forward for all your resident screening

  8. Page says:

    To be fair about the onsite inspection, that rule comes from the credit bureau. Each bureau has their own criteria that has to be followed. The onsite inspection is required if you wish to have a credit report. And if the inspector decides that the kitchen table is sufficient they are not doing their job as required. As far as the criminal reports go, not all states and counties in the US allow the criminal data to be gathered for what people refer to as instant searches. If you are choosing a company, you should choose one that will explain how the criminal reports work and what they cover. Some states and counties require a specific search for their data. And as far as looking for evictions in a free data base, that all fine and well as long as you are certain that you know where that person has lived and understand that the public record information you find does not contain any link to the applicants ss# as they are name only matches.

    • Dave says:

      I’ve used e-renter for several years. I set the screening criteria & they check against that. Meets non-discrimination rqmts by using standard criteria. There are real people reachable by phone if needed. Had one applicant dispute that just missed the screening criteria, and e-renter was able to respond with exact details. Was well worth the cost. They have the tenant make a $1.99 charge on their credit card as proof that the person’s info you are submitting actually matches the credit card. Only improvement I would like, but would slow the process dramatically, is employment verification.

  9. jason says:

    After trying First Advantage and Cozy, I have recently enrolled with American Apartment Owners Association…finally a company that picks up the phone and has courteous, helpful customer service people!! Same reports as the others but very good support

  10. Nathan says:

    Good Afternoon,

    Please consider adding Rentec Direct to the list of screening providers. We’ve been providing software and screening service to landlords since 2009 and work with over 13,000 landlords today.

    I’ve emailed full info, but the info can also be found at https://www.rentecdirect.com/tenant-screening-reports

    Thank you for your consideration and please let me know if you have any questions.

  11. Andrew says:

    Hi all,
    Not sure why this company isn’t included, it is called TenantMagic. Offers complete report with everything that Zumper, Cozy, TransUnion offer, with MUCH better customer service. I’ve never been able to get ahold of people at those companies, but with TenantMagic I get an answer immediately every time I call. Also, the service is so easy to use. Really. All I did was enter my email as an owner (Oh, and by the way there is no cost), and was able to get completed full reports in minutes. Highly highly recommend, especially because I love supporting small businesses. http://www.tenantmagic.net

    • Krishna T. says:

      Thank you for the suggestion. I just looked at it online, and found it to be much better than the service I use now. I was using a service as a landlord that said it was best, but I am much more satisfied with TenantMagic. I spoke right away with the owner, who was very helpful, more than anyone at my other service.
      This service is much cheaper to my applicant, much more effective, and provided me with a great and easy way to screen my applicant. For anyone using e-rental, my rental, rent prep, smart move, I recommend switching to http://www.tenantmagic.net.
      Andrew thank you for the suggestion I saved much time and money with this program.

  12. MNUser says:

    Tenant magic is bad. I used it once looking at the reviews above but that was a mistake and will not use them again. From what I used so far, Rentprep has been better but all of them charge way too much that what they are worth.

  13. Sara Ortiz says:

    Tenant Screening Center offers criminal background checks and has always been very responsive. Great customer service and I like that I can use their site from my phone easily.

  14. Amy Winters says:

    Thanks for pointing out that a tenant screening service should offer actual credit report information. My husband and I recently invested in rental property. We’ll look for a tenant screening service that offers credit report info.

  15. A Landlord says:

    What about Rentler? Can anyone check out rentler’s tenant screening service and write a review? I would like to know before I use them. Thanks – From one landlord to another.

  16. Sean D says:

    “MA Crim: whether MA county criminal are included in the given price. Note that CORI is never included” This is from the “How to use table below” section. Can someone explain the difference between MA county criminal and CORI please.

    • Doug Quattrochi says:

      CORI is a state-administered system that has per-access use charges. County records are a different, lower level of government records and are not accessible at the state CORI system. Ideally the two would be identical, but because they are two different systems, and because the rules concerning disclosure of information are different in each, they will not generally show the same results.

  17. Small scale landlord says:

    Having trouble with smartscreen, one of you recommendations. Getting lots of “Server Error in ‘/’ Application.” messages on their website and the contact phone number doesn’t work. Are you sure they are still in business and you want to continue to recommend them?

  18. simpson d. says:

    As an individual, getting dispute remarks removed may appear a little overwhelming at first, but understand that it’s a fairly straight forward process that requires only reasonable efforts at your end on how you handle it with discretion .Credit card issuers have dropped my credit limits, my bank just cancelled my credit cards and yet I have never missed a payment.it seems life isn’t fair to me ,sometimes I make my payments before month end ,the closed card was my overdraft protection to my checking account with them among other things, not having that card further complicates my financial and life situation and this also reflected in my score to drop which has to do within my credit utilization, never have I bounced a check on any of my accounts.All with family bonding and getting to put the home together, i can’t cope .I reached out to weenie ,an online credit expert through (Generationxweenie at gee mail dot com )who helped to add trade-lines , a credit boost ,before I re-applied for a new CC .I got an approval for loan in few days of applying.

  19. Patty Campbell says:

    My credit score was a 840 and around last year August I woke up to 550. My credit history has been stellar for over 20 years. Apparently there was an $8.00 charge 60 days past due on a chase account. Due to COIV 19 and a lost of job and relocation, I never received the letter saying that I typed in the wrong number on the routing and therefore the payment was never received. I immediately called in paid all the fees ( more than $8), paid it up to date and closed it but it had affected my credit very bad, I did all I could to get my credit score to normal but all effort didn’t yield any result for months until I met a Credit expert who had worked closely with Credit companies last year November on Youtube. I contact his official email (tom.lawrence114 @gmailCom) I explained to him I want to to buy a home and start a family but I was denied due to my low credit score, he told me he would fixed my credit and get me back or above my formal credit score, I taught it was all a joke until we both got a deal. I complied and work with him while he was helping me out, after he was done he told me to check my credit score, I was amazed my score increased to 850 on Equifax I checked Experian and TransUnion they are all increased as well

  20. Joe D says:

    For a company that handles sensitive personal/financial data, it is very concerning that SmartScreen’s home page still has “©2011 ClearScreening” at the bottom. This is a huge red flag and one reason I will not trust them with my (or my applicants) data.

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