​Should you accept an applicant's Credit Karma report?

At Rent Application, we help landlords create paperless, online based tenant application and screening processes Whether you use another tool today or rely on paper and fax machines to get reports, Rent Application for Landlords can help. Accounts are free to setup and we have great support.

When speaking with landlords, one common question we hear revolves around whether or not to accept applicant provided credit reports. Services like Credit Karma were built to help consumers monitor their credit - but sometimes are mistaken for an independent credit source.

Be friendly, not friends with your tenants

Sometimes tenants will request to provide their report in order to reduce the application cost. And while it may seem like a nice way to save an applicant a few bucks, you shouldn’t be focused on saving the applicants money. Your screening process is built to save you the heartache and headache of dealing with a bad tenant.

Also, accepting this minor change sets a tone of flexibility. Would you also be comfortable waiving a late fee on rent?

Beware of bad actors

While most folks asking to use their printed report are simply looking to save a few dollars, some applicants may be looking to hide their past financial behaviors. A report from Credit Karma or any online source controlled by the applicant could be edited before printing to remove or change details.

It’s important to order your own credit reports to maintain the chain of custody, so you know the information you’re using to make decisions is coming from an independent source.

Another issue with accepting applicant-provided credit reports, is the lack of criminal background checks, and eviction history. While each landlord should decide which tenant screening reports they want, credit, criminal and eviction are highly recommended to give a fuller picture of the applicant’s history as a tenant.

A Standard Process protects you

In order to ensure fairness in your screening process, you should always maintain a consistent process applied to all applicants. Accepting one applicant’s printed credit report could be viewed as preference if you would not accept it from all applicants.

Besides being fair to all applicants, standard processes protect you from making decisions on hunches or “gut instinct”. Following your process for every applicant, every time is the best way to be fair and make fully informed tenancy decisions.

Finally, if you’re applicant doesn’t want to pay $20 for a credit report, are they really serious about renting your property? Could this request itself be a red flag?

Your screening process is designed to protect YOU and your investment. Any weak link in your process only has the potential to hurt you.

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