The American Apartment Owner’s Association (AAOA) offers a wide selection of membership and service levels at decent prices. However, their clunky interface, confusing options, and sparse application drag down the overall user experience.
What is AAOA?
AAOA is a massive landlord association that provides credit and background checks on rental applicants. While AAOA provides many resources for landlords, this review will focus on their tenant screening services.
AAOA Features and Facts
|Time to Get Results
|Immediately after authorization is given. If the landlord is underwritten, they get all reports immediately.
|Options for either landlord or tenant
|Type of Application
|Online application only available for the Blue Package. Must use their downloadable application for purchasing any other Packages.
|Nationwide Criminal & Eviction Check
|Felonies & Misdemeanors
|SSN Fraud Check
|Sex Offender Check
AAOA Pros & Cons
- Trusted Organization – With over 140k members, landlords trust AAOA. They’ve been around for nearly 20 years and will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
- Fairly Priced – With their most comprehensive service coming in at under $50 (and discounts available for certain membership levels), they’re priced on the lower-middle end of the market.
- Thorough Reports – In addition to the standard reports, they offer Telecheck Check (how likely the checks written by the applicant will be good), Previous Address Tenant History, Sex Offender search, as well as an OFAC, Terrorist, and Federal search.
- Extreme Flexibility in Purchase Options – With four packages, four membership levels, and a plethora of á la carte options, there’s something for everyone.
- Sparse Application – Most landlords will want more information from their applicants than what AAOA’s application process gathers.
- Expensive Á La Carte Options – Buying anything that isn’t bundled will be significantly more expensive.
- Clunky Interface – While not awful, they don’t win any style points for their application and screening process. Also, they won’t allow you to choose anything but their Blue Package when using the application link online. This means that eviction history will only be statewide.
- Too Many Ads – They often seem more focused on upselling than providing the best experience possible.
- Confusing Options – While their membership and package options provide flexibility, landlords will have to do some digging to fully understand which service level meets their needs.
AAOA Tenant Screening Pricing
AAOA has messy price offerings, including memberships, tenant screening packages, and á la carte services.
AAOA Membership Levels
Price Range: Free – $299 per year
AAOA’s membership levels are unnecessarily complicated, and it takes several minutes to digest what each has to offer. Even after reading through it, you might have more questions than answers.
The simple summary is that the more you spend on a membership, the bigger the discount you’ll get on tenant screening packages. In fact, you can get $10 (or potentially more) off every Gold Package. It wouldn’t make financial sense for a landlord with few properties to purchase a membership, but landlords with many can experience tremendous savings as well as other benefits.
If you skip purchasing a membership and buy a tenant screening package, they will auto-enroll you in their free membership.
AAOA Tenant Screening Packages
These are AAOA’s tenant screening prices with a free membership:
They recommend their Blue Package as the “most popular,” however it doesn’t provide nationwide criminal history. At just under $50, we’d recommend their most comprehensive Gold Package.
Landlords can get $5, $10, or more off per Gold Package after purchasing a membership.
AAOA Á La Carte Options
|Credit Report (Underwriting Required)
|Credit Report (Tenant Cooperation Required)
|Telecheck Check Verification
|Previous Address Tenant History
|Social Security Number Fraud Check
|Statewide Eviction Search
|Statewide Criminal Search
|Nationwide Eviction Search
|Nationwide Criminal Search
|Nationwide Bankruptcies, Tax Liens & Civil Judgments
|Sex Offender Search
Overall, their á la carte prices seem to be there to take advantage of a landlord in a hurry. They are so cost prohibitive that there aren’t many reasons for a landlord to purchase one of these.
Here’s how AAOA’s process works for creating the application, the applicant’s process, the landlord’s process, and what the reports look like.
1. Create Application
At this point, let’s assume that you’ve created an account with AAOA and are signed up for their free membership. The first thing that you’ll do is to add a property to your profile by clicking “Manage Properties.”
After you add your property, we hit our first snag. When getting an “Apply Now” link, the only package that you can select for your applicants is the Blue Package. There is no way to change this.
With an “Apply Now” link, you can post the link online (e.g., in ads, social media, or on rental sites) and gather applications automatically:
This feature is great—if you’re okay with using the Blue package. If you want to order other packages, you have to input the applicant’s information yourself. In other words, they need to already have filled out an application and sent it to you:
You probably see the problem. If you already need to have an application from them, you can’t use AAOA’s online application process. This is a major snag in their functionality.
They do have rental applications that you can download and send as PDFs, but many other tenant screening services handle this in a more hands-off way.
For now, let’s assume that you’re fine with the Blue package, and move through the rest of the process.
2. Tenant Application Process
Now, your applicant has clicked the “Apply Now” link that you created. They are taken to this page:
AAOA gets a few points in their favor here:
- They name the costs up front
- They mention the soft credit pull
- They gather email addresses—which is always a nice thing to have even if the applicant doesn’t finish the application.
Now, the applicant moves onto the information gathering part, which is pretty standard:
Then, the application asks for income details, and then gets authorization to pull reports:
However, that’s all the information gathered in the application process. There’s no mention of:
- Number of occupants
- Pets (including size, breed, etc.)
- Vehicles (important when space is limited)
- Rental history
- Income/job history (other than an optional W-2 or pay stub upload)
- Desired move-in date
- A place for notes
Unfortunately, if a landlord desires to be thorough, there will have to be a second application or another kind of outreach to the applicant. They have applications that you can download and send out, but this is a serious limitation for landlords.
Next, the tenant confirms all the information/reports that the landlord will receive:
Then, they move onto the checkout and payment process:
However, the process gets a little clunky here. After paying, the applicant would expect to be finished with the process. However, this is the next screen they see:
While it’s not a massive issue, it makes the process feel out of order. After answering a few questions to verify their identity, they’ll get a success screen:
An email is then sent to the applicant to confirm the process is indeed finished. Then, in true fashion with the rest of their site and process, the applicant is given an offer to buy something. In this case, it’s a pitch to pay $5 to see copies of all of their reports. This isn’t a bad deal, as some other review companies either don’t have this option or only let the applicant see their credit report.
3. Landlord Reports View
Now that the applicant has finished, the landlord will receive an email that there are reports ready to be seen. It would have been nice to get a quick mention that an application has been filled out, either with the email subject line or the body of the email itself. However, the fact that the reports exist imply that there’s a new applicant.
4. Credit Report
Once the landlord follows the steps in the email to view the reports, they will get to see all of the reports that were ordered. However, this is the example credit report that a landlord can download when deciding if they want to purchase:
But, this is what the actual report looks like:
The good news is that they’ve improved their interface to make the information easier to consume (although it still pales in comparison to some competitors). The bad news is that their example reports don’t reflect what the reports actually look like.
5. Criminal & Eviction Reports
In the reports area, the landlord can also see the Criminal and Eviction Search reports. These images are from the examples available to download. The test applicant we applied with had no criminal or eviction search, so there was a single line of text saying “No records were found.”
Here’s the example Criminal Search report:
Here’s the Eviction Search report:
6. Other Reports
There are also available reports for:
- Telecheck Check Verification
- Previous Address History
- Sex Offender
- OFAC, Terrorist, and Federal
While their reports aren’t the most user friendly in terms of digesting them quickly, they do provide a strong range of information.
7. Landlord’s Dashboard
The dashboard for landlords is a mixed bag. Because they provide more than tenant screening services, their dropdown views are complicated and hard to navigate:
It’s too busy to quickly determine where to go. Between all the dropdowns, there are 46 options to choose from.
Another issue with their interface is that AAOA is constantly trying to sell you on their services. During the screening process, there are several places where they offer upsells. The landlord’s view (even for paid members) still has ads in the sidebar on almost every page. Even when looking at your tenants’ screening reports you’ll find offers:
We found that this made the whole experience feel more like a sales pitch than a useful service.
Should You Use AAOA
Overall, AAOA mostly gets the job done without being expensive, albeit with an interface that isn’t always the most intuitive or visually appealing. The fact that you can only choose the Blue Package when using their online application is a major downside.
With the right membership, their screening packages can be inexpensive—but small landlords won’t get these discounts and are better off spending their money on a much more updated service. They are a trusted company that has performed well for many years, but there are other options on the market that do a better job.
AAOA Frequently Asked Questions
These are the most common questions asked about AAOA:
1. Is AAOA a Legitimate Site?
AAOA is a legitimate site. They are FCRA compliant and are the home of the nation’s largest landlord association, boasting over 140,000 members.
2. Does AAOA Run a Hard Credit Inquiry?
Credit checks from AAOA are done via soft inquiry and will not affect the applicant’s credit score.
3. Are AAOA’s Tenant Screening Reports Accurate?
AAOA’s reports are accurate and thorough, although their presentation leaves a lot to be desired.