TransUnion’s SmartMove offers tenant screening packages that rival any other service in their price range. They shine with a smooth, simple process and good reports—provided you’re not screening tenants in one of the 8 areas where they don’t offer criminal reports.
What is SmartMove?
SmartMove is a tenant screening service that provides credit and background checks on rental applicants. The service was developed by TransUnion, one of the three main credit bureaus.
SmartMove Features and Facts
|Time to Get Results
|Options for either landlord or tenant
|Type of Application
|Online through their portal
|Nationwide Criminal & Eviction Check
|Felonies & Misdemeanors
|SSN Fraud Check
|Sex Offender Check
SmartMove Pros & Cons
- Favorable Pricing – Their top product compares favorably in price to most other tenant screening services.
- Developed by TransUnion – Because TransUnion is one of the three main credit bureaus, landlords can especially trust the credit reports provided by SmartMove.
- Proprietary ResidentScore – SmartMove claims this credit-based metric predicts rental eviction risk 15% better than credit scores alone.
- Income Insights – Instant analysis as to whether further income verification is required.
- Application Process Not Fully Online – Landlords have to email the application, rather than the tenant click a link and get started themselves.
- Sparse Application – Much important information is left off the application—thorough landlords will have to follow up with a separate questionnaire or interview.
- No Criminal Data for Some States – Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Dakota, Wyoming and Cook County, Illinois charge extra to access criminal data. Some screening services cover this cost for you while SmartMove omits it altogether.
SmartMove Tenant Screening Pricing
|SmartCheck Basic plus:
|SmartCheck Plus plus:
We recommend purchasing SmartCheck Premium in order to get the most complete service. For only $2 more than SmartCheck Plus, landlords can get access to SmartMove’s Income Insights report. This provides instant analysis into a tenant’s income.
Here’s how SmartMove’s process works for creating the application, the applicant’s process, the landlord’s process, and what the reports look like.
1. Create Application
The first step in the process is to create a landlord login, where you are asked to confirm your email and fill out some information. It’s a bit of a lengthy process, which includes creating security questions as well as 2-factor authentication each time you log in. This extra security likely stems from TransUnion’s status as a top credit bureau and the necessary privacy involved.
Then, you’ll be asked to fill out information for the property that you wish to rent:
Then, you have the option to auto-decline applicants with bankruptcies in a certain timeframe. It’s a useful feature, but it would be nice to see other parameters for auto-decline such as income, credit score, or evictions. They already have the functionality built:
Next, you’ll see that there’s only a single package to offer to tenants. At first glance this may seem like a negative, but it’s really not. This package is priced fairly and is their most complete package. This is the only one a good landlord would want to select.
At the bottom of the screenshot, you’ll also notice some important fine print. There are certain areas where SmartMove will not pull information (Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Dakota, Wyoming and Cook County, Illinois). That makes SmartMove a difficult choice if you’re in one of those areas. Less urgently, it’s also possible to have a tenant who’s recently moved from one of those areas, and you won’t be able to find criminal activity from their time living there.
2. Tenant Application Process
Unfortunately, SmartMove doesn’t have an option to get a link for your application to post it online. This means that you have to find an applicant first, and then send them the application. However, one point in their favor is that the link emailed to the applicant also doubles as a release form for pulling reports. This is an upgrade over the services that send a separate email as a release form.
Next, SmartMove has each applicant create an account, complete with security questions. It’s an extra step, but some applicants may prefer the added security.
Next is the application itself, with all of the standard personal information fields:
Then, the application will ask for income and employment information:
However, you’ll notice that the next step is payment information, meaning that’s all the information the application will gather. Landlords will have to ask more questions to gather data such as:
- Referral contact information
- Who will be on the lease
- Pet information
- Vehicle information
- Past rental history (although landlords can find this information later in the credit report)
Many landlords will find that essential. The balance is that more applicants are likely to get to the end of a smaller, less-detailed application, and the landlord can ask those questions of the most qualified applicants.
After payment is another step to verify identification of the applicant, a step that’s fairly common for tenant screening services:
3. Landlord Reports View
Once the applicant has submitted their application, the landlord can see all the information immediately. This is because the applicant has already authorized all their information to be pulled.
Even before you click through to see the standard reports, you’ll see both the ResidentScore (which they say is 15% more accurate than a credit score at predicting evictions) and then a quick income-to-rent number (the 3.8x number in the screenshot above).
After clicking on the “SEE DETAILS,” this pops up:
A quick rent-to-income number is nice to see, however, that number can be misleading. Debt-to-income ratio would give a more accurate figure as to the applicant’s true ability to afford rent. Seeing as how the credit report gathers debt information, it would be nice to see that functionality added here. However, as few tenant screening services offer true debt-to-income calculations, this isn’t a unique con of SmartMove’s service.
4. Credit Report
Once you begin digging into their reports, you’ll find that they are visually appealing and easy to read (information is redacted in much of these because of the need to put in real information to get a real tenant screening report back). Notice in the top-right that SmartMove does confirm an SSN match to the applicant as part of the credit report:
Next, landlords will see a quick overview of the applicant’s profile, including how much their debt payments are. This is a great opportunity to calculate debt-to-income to get a real measure for the applicant’s ability to pay their rent each month. You’ll also see a more in-depth look at the applicant’s ResidentScore and the factors that went into the calculation:
The credit report then goes deep into every trade line (basically everyone who the applicant owes money too), and gives you their balance, monthly payment, and whether they’ve had late payments. Again, it’s easy to gather the relevant information quickly:
5. Criminal & Eviction Reports
The criminal report is simple, as it should be. Most applicants will have nothing here, so there’s not much to this report.
The Eviction Related Proceedings Report is also simple and direct:
6. Income Insights
The Income Insights report is unique to SmartMove. It essentially lets you know whether you should do further income verification for your applicant. Most landlords should independently verify income (e.g., what if the applicant lost their job two weeks ago and SmartMove doesn’t have access to that data?), but it’s a nice extra check.
First, you’ll see that SmartMove will give you a quick legal reminder:
Then, you’ll see a quick thumbs up/thumbs down as to whether the person’s income likely matches what they’ve reported:
Should You Use SmartMove?
SmartMove is one of the most trusted tenant screening companies, partly because they are powered by TransUnion. They lack some of the deeper options provided by more expensive services (such as LeaseRunner), but they provide an excellent service for the price offered.
SmartMove created their tenant screening service with simplicity in mind—for both landlords and applicants. They offer uncomplicated packages, have an easy-to-navigate application, and their reports are user friendly. Overall, this is one of the better services on the market, provided that you aren’t wanting to pull criminal records for the locations that they don’t service.
SmartMove Frequently Asked Questions
These are the most common questions asked about SmartMove:
1. Is SmartMove a Legitimate Site?
SmartMove is a legitimate site that has been providing tenant screening services since 2010. They were developed by TransUnion, one of the major credit bureaus, that has been around for over 55 years.
2. Does SmartMove Run a Hard Credit Inquiry?
Credit checks from SmartMove are done via soft inquiry and will not affect the applicant’s credit score.
3. Are SmartMove Tenant Screening Reports Accurate?
SmartMove’s tenant screening reports are among the most trusted in the industry. However, their lack of criminal information for 8 different locations can lead to some holes in that data. Their credit reports, powered by TransUnion, are exceptionally accurate.