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How do I Get FREE Credit Reports when screening tenants?

By John Nuzzolese

Credit reports have become one of the most essential elements in checking the background of a potential tenant. The days of the handshake rental lease are over. Today, renting to a person without checking his credit is like playing lotto. the odds of winning are against the landlord.

One of the reasons many landlords I have spoken with don't do credit reports is because of the cost of running a credit report. What?! The cost of the credit report?? Well, yes. Believe it or not many people would rather spend thousands of dollars in lost rent and legal fees, renovation and aggravation than the cost of a $15.00 credit report because they feel lucky.

Then again, there are those of us who know the risks are heavily slanted against us and will not rent without a full credit and background check on the potential tenant. We know that it is better to spend a small amount of money on the screening process rather than wanting to kick ourselves in the rear when the tenant burns us.

You may be thinking, "yeah, I know all that, but the title of this article has the words "FREE CREDIT REPORTS" in it and that's why I'm reading it." Well that's what I'll talk about.

There are 2 types of "Free Credit Reports" for tenant screening I'd like to tell you about.

  1. The kind provided by the tenants
  2. The kind you order and have the tenants pay for.

1. Tenant Provided Credit Check:

Some landlords will require the potential tenant to obtain a free credit report on themselves to submit along with their rental application. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax credit bureaus offer anybody a copy of his or her own credit report for FREE.

Attention Tenants: As a tenant, being prepared and providing a recent credit report to a prospective landlord makes an excellent impression and greatly increases the the tenant's chance of being accepted over other applicants.

Many landlords ask me, "Do I need the tenant to sign something in order for me to get a credit report?" The answer is yes. It is illegal to obtain a credit report on another individual without that person's written permission.
That is why The LPA Rental Application is what I always use. It provides the correct legal language that allows the landlord or his agent to obtain a credit report from any of the major credit bureaus.

2. Landlord / Owner Provided Credit Reports

Now, I'd like to tell you about the other kind of "Free Credit Report" which is the kind I always use. Years ago, I subscribed to a credit report reseller that provided credit reports by fax. Now I get instant online credit reports from our own "Quick Check Credit Reports". That's the same credit bureau we have on The LPA website. I feel the credit reports I buy from Quick Check Credit Reports (or any other credit report reseller) are FREE because, my LPA Rental Application provides for a screening fee. I charge the applicant $25. per adult. Then, after verifying that the references and employment information on the rental application check out, I order the credit report which is instantly on my computer screen 2 seconds later. Did I pay for the credit report? Well, it's on my bill, but the tenant gave me the money to pay it! So I consider it a FREE CREDIT REPORT ! And that is what I recommend other landlords do too. Charge a screening fee. Use the LPA Rental Application if you don't already.

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