TransUnion SmartMove Review

TransUnion SmartMove Review

Read time: 17 minutes Last Updated: 05/14/2020

After digging through their reports, our review team had mixed feelings for TransUnion SmartMove’s tenant screening services. Their Basic report doesn’t stack up well to other reports in the same price range, but their premium report, while pricey, received some of our highest ratings in the industry. If you’re willing to spend more per report, SmartMove is worth a consideration.

Read further to learn more about the basics of how TransUnion SmartMove works, or skip ahead to our reviews of each of the 3 report types they have to offer:

How it Works

SmartMove boasts that it offers an ‘instant’ report, but this isn’t exactly the case. Information is processed instantly, but the speed at which you get your final report has a lot to do with the tenant.

That’s because SmartMove has the landlord working very closely with the tenant. Though some might be uncomfortable with that level of tenant involvement, it is critical to how SmartMove works.

Here’s the process that a landlord and tenant must go through to receive information and reports through SmartMove.

  1. The tenant provides the landlord with an email address.
  2. The landlord sends the tenant a renter screening request through their TransUnion SmartMove account.
  3. The renter receives the screening application request to the email that the landlord entered. The tenant can choose to accept or decline the screening.
  4. If the renter accepts the request, their credit and (applicable) criminal records are released to the landlord through SmartMove. The landlord also receives an evaluation and a leasing recommendation based on income information, eviction history, and the ResidentScore.
  5. The landlord can approve or decline the tenant through SmartMove. Tenants are entitled to copies of their reports if they request them.

The level of tenant involvement may not appeal to all landlords, especially ones that enjoy having control over every aspect of the tenant screening process.

Tenant Involvement

As we said above, SmartMove is technically an instant service, but the speed at which landlords receive tenant reports relies on how quickly the tenant receives their email and accepts the request. Should the email get lost, ignored, or go to the spam folder, a landlord may never receive the report.

While this may be a drawback for some landlords, some also find it to be a good way to determine if a tenant really wants to rent a property. If they cannot go through the appropriate steps (or pay the application fee, if that’s the option the landlord chooses), then renting to them is out of the question.

On the other hand, tenant screening where the tenant is not involved is completely under the control of the landlord and can help fill rental units quickly. Which option is best is, of course, up to the landlord.

Identity Verification and Leasing Recommendation

These two features go hand-in-hand when using the SmartMove service. Essentially, the service requires the tenant to submit their social security number in order to verify their identity. This information is never revealed to the landlord or any third party.
This means that landlords won’t have to use any additional identity verification services. All of the information is guaranteed to belong to the tenant, as the screening services work with more than just names and previous addresses.

Another thing that SmartMove includes in its core package is a leasing recommendation. No matter which package of the three packages you choose, SmartMove will always tell you whether they believe you should lease to the tenant or not. This information is based on an algorithm that includes all of the tenant’s credit and financial information. It also includes an income-to-rent ratio for the landlord’s consideration.

Of course, the final decision always lies with the landlord. SmartMove does not issue approval or denial messages to the tenant based on their information. The service only offers a suggestion to the landlord, and the landlord is under no obligation to follow it.
TransUnion offers landlords three packages, which we will explore below. We’ll rate them based on the following information.

Predicts Tenant’s Ability to Pay

This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of tenant screening. A tenant can tell a landlord about their income, but until there is some income verification or other means to make sure the figures the tenant is providing are accurate, a landlord can’t truly know that a tenant isn’t going to have trouble making the rent payment on time.

Other factors that can influence this outside of income are debt, credit score, and other monthly obligations that a tenant might have.

Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Criminal Activity

Having access to criminal records can be important during the rental process. Landlords want to know if prospective tenants have violent crime charges, or if they distribute or use illegal substances. Not only can these acts drive down property values, but they can also negatively impact the tenant’s ability to be a good tenant and keep up with rent.

Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Eviction

Evictions are messy, expensive, and time-consuming. They can lead to damage to the property, lots of legal fees, and other problems that no landlord wants to deal with. By looking at past evictions, a landlord can make a reasonable estimate on whether or not this is an issue they might face with a potential tenant. Some landlords tote that this is the single most important factor to consider before renting out a property and purchasing an eviction report can save everyone a lot of hassle later on.

Accessibility/Ease of Use

When a report is easy to obtain, easy to access across devices and can be easily read and interpreted by a landlord, it’s going to carry much more weight in the landlord’s final decision. This rating is based on whether the report is easy to read, simple to use, and easily accessible from multiple devices.

Tenant Pay Options

Lastly, at each of the three pricing tiers listed above, the landlord can choose to bill the tenant instead of paying for the report themselves. The option is included when the report is ordered, so there are no hoops to jump through.

Some landlords may find that this option becomes a separate tenant screening metric. If the tenant is serious about renting the property or unit, then they will likely want to pay this amount. This can help the landlord decide who to rent to.

Allowing the tenant to pay for the screening directly makes it easier for everyone involved, especially landlords. Tenants can be billed directly for the service rather than having it go through as a fee added to the application process, which is extremely convenient.

Now let’s take a look at each of the different packages SmartMove has to offer.

TransUnion SmartCheck Basic

5/10
  • Includes a national-level criminal background report
  • Offers basic tenant information screening
  • No eviction information
  • Criminal background report is restricted by state
Predicts Tenant’s Ability to Pay
5/10
Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Criminal Activity
6/10
Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Eviction
2/10
Accessibility/Ease of Use
7/10

Our Review

SmartMove’s SmartCheck Basic is the first, least-expensive package that the service offers, and it includes the least information out of all the packages they offer. While this package contains some pertinent information, it lacks a few of the most basic pieces of information that most landlords will want to know before renting.

The real problem here is the lack of eviction data, as well as the lack of a full credit report. In fact, you don’t even get a credit score with this package. ResidentScore provides a similar metric, but leaves out some critical information.

Here’s what SmartCheck Basic does include.

Credit-Based ResidentScore

ResidentScore is a feature that is unique to TransUnion SmartMove and every company that uses it. This score is based on several metrics, and it is not the same as a credit score – though it has a lot in common with a credit score, overall.

The reason for this feature is to give landlords a prediction of whether a tenant will default on their lease.

A ResidentScore is determined using the same metrics that are used to generate a credit score, including resident records and credit history. A ResidentScore simply runs the same information through a different formula. The number produced is a 3-digit number between 350 and 850 (which, consequently, is the same range that credit scores offer).

TransUnion stresses that the scores are not the same, but they are extremely similar. A credit score evaluates reliability vs risk for financial lending and other matters, whereas the ResidentScore evaluates reliability vs risk for rental reliability.

Because of this small difference, the ResidentScore is definitely worth considering.
TransUnion also says that ResidentScore can predict evictions 15% more reliably than a credit score alone, and can predict a lease ending early 19% more reliably than a credit score alone. TransUnion can provide these scores for up to 97% of applicants, though mileage may vary if a tenant doesn’t have available credit information.

The ResidentScore is one of the only options that are available in every SmartMove package as well, so every SmartMove report includes this option.

National Criminal Background Report

SmartMove offers criminal reports in addition to their other services. These reports provide a comprehensive look at any notable incidents that the tenant has been part of and can help a landlord decide if a tenant is going to be a problem for their rental or not. No one wants to rent to someone who may damage the property or use it illegally.

A criminal report from SmartMove scans through millions of criminal records from state and national databases, so no stone is left unturned. This report also searches the Most Wanted Database and the National Sex Offender Public Registry.

Criminal reports are instantly available to the landlord (once the tenant accepts the screening). That is, they are instantly available for 45 states – for the other five, criminal reports are completely unavailable.

In Colorado, Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Massachusetts, Consumer Reporting Agencies have to pay additional fees to access criminal data. These states have ruled that criminal information should not be available instantly, so they offer the service at a fee.

SmartMove doesn’t pay that fee, and it doesn’t make you pay it either. When using SmartMove, there are no criminal records available for those states. That means that even if a tenant lives in a different state now any crimes committed in the states listed above will not be reported through SmartMove.

The result is an incomplete picture if you are a landlord in one of those five states, or if your tenant has ever lived there. If this is a concern for you, it may be best to seek out these records through different means, including using different services. The results may take longer, but it may be worth the wait.

It’s also worthy to note that no matter how accurate a service believes their criminal background reporting to be, instant reports can never offer the same accuracy as reports that take longer. That’s because there are plenty of state and local courts that are not required to report their records to any database. Reports that take longer can be more accurate, even if the wait is frustrating.

When you can get a criminal report through SmartMove, it is a comprehensive report. This service uses record matching that matches the strength of a credit bureau, and this technology alone can save the landlord and tenant from receiving false information.

The SmartCheck Basic package receives a 5 out of 10 from us overall.
It doesn’t include enough financial information to be able to determine if the tenant is able to pay, so it receives a 5 out of 10 from us in the Predicts Tenant’s Ability to Pay category.

Because the criminal background report is restricted by state and may not be very detailed, the Basic package receives a 6 out of 10 in the Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Criminal Activity category.

There is little to no information that can help a landlord predict eviction in any concrete way, it receives a 2 out of 10 in the Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Eviction category.

Finally, while the reports are easy to read, the restriction for certain states and criminal records is not easy to overcome, especially since SmartMove does not provide the information at an additional cost. Because of this, the Basic package receives a 7 out of 10 in our Accessibility/Ease of Use category.

TransUnion SmartCheck Plus

8/10
  • Includes a full credit report, rather than a pass/fail metric
  • Includes a wealth of eviction data
  • Only uses a single eviction database, so information is not complete
Predicts Tenant’s Ability to Pay
7/10
Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Criminal Activity
8/10
Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Eviction
7/10
Accessibility/Ease of Use
10/10

Our Review

The next package that SmartMove offers is SmartCheck Plus. This package offers two critical pieces of information for a landlord: a full credit report and a national eviction report. SmartCheck Plus includes the information available in the SmartCheck Basic package, including a ResidentScore and a National criminal background check, but adds the following reports and information.

Full Credit Report

Some screening services include a pass/fail metric based solely on the credit score. TransUnion SmartMove doesn’t think that tells landlords the whole story. One of the advantages of choosing SmartMove it is owned by TransUnion, and therefore landlords receive the entire credit report for the tenant.

This might feel invasive, but it gives the landlord the most accurate and helpful information to make a judgment on whether to rent to any given tenant. A pass/fail score can leave out important information or even result in false positives, but a landlord can avoid that pitfall with a full credit report.

When the landlord receives the credit report, they do not get all of the tenant’s personal information. The credit report will confirm that the social security number matches and give the landlord all the important information they need without compromising private data. That’s a delicate balancing act, but it’s one of the reasons landlords have been most comfortable choosing TransUnion’s screening service.

The report is completely generated online and is viewable (like all available reports) from any device with an internet connection. When viewed on a mobile device, the report is optimized for viewing comfort.

While the other options that SmartMove includes are helpful, a credit report is one of the most important indicators of a tenant’s reliability. Every bit of information in the full credit report has the ability to sway the landlord one way or another.

Note: SmartMove only performs soft credit checks. This means that a tenant’s credit will not be affected by the check.

Some actions, such as credit card or loan applications, can negatively affect the tenant’s credit score and even lower it in some cases. TransUnion knows that these hard checks are harmful, but because the tenant participates heavily in the credit checks that happen through SmartMove, there is no impact at all.

National Eviction Report

Many landlords view eviction history as the single most important piece of information that can decide if the tenant is reliable or not. Studies have shown that a tenant who has been evicted once is more likely than the average tenant to face eviction again.

Eviction is an expensive and lengthy process that can result in damage to your property and a lot of stress. TransUnion SmartMove’s eviction history reports can help landlords avoid future evictions by providing them with information about past evictions.

SmartMove’s eviction history reports are easy to understand and simple to read. It’s a friendly interface that allows you to check more than just evictions. Eviction reports also include information about:

  • Tenant judgment for possession and money
  • Unlawful detainers
  • Tenant judgments for rent
  • Failure to pay rent
  • Writs and warrants of eviction

SmartMove has access to all of these different types of information because TransUnion also has access to a larger database that includes credit information, personal information, and address history.

But outside of these databases, SmartMove really only uses a single eviction history database to retrieve this information. This means that sometimes the results can be a bit spotty. The only way to combat this is to run multiple databases, but the check will take more time and be more expensive. Suffice it to say that SmartMove does a passable job at presenting all the information, though it is not without flaws.

All in all, the eviction reports that SmartMove generates are extremely important, even if they aren’t flawless. Within the realm of what an instant service can accomplish, TransUnion is doing the most they can to provide landlords with all of the relevant information.

Overall, SmartCheck Plus receives an 8 out of 10 from us.

The full credit report works well with the ResidentScore that this package provides, so SmartCheck Plus receives an 8 out of 10 from us in our Predicts Tenant’s Ability to Pay category.

The eviction report and credit report included in this package work together and build upon the criminal report that is offered here. However, criminal reports are still not available for some states, so SmartCheck Plus receives an 8 out of 10 in our Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Criminal Activity category.

SmartCheck Plus includes a nationwide eviction report, so it receives a 10 out of 10 from us in our Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Eviction category.

Finally, the reports here are easy to use, easy to read and interpret and give landlords all the information they could need when screening a tenant. SmartMove Plus receives a 10 out of 10 from us in our Accessibility/Ease of Use category.

TransUnion SmartCheck Premium

9.5/10
  • Provides in-depth income information
  • Income Insights report is only $2 more
  • Income Insights may not be accurate, as it is based in credit information and not actual spending habits.
Predicts Tenant’s Ability to Pay
10/10
Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Criminal Activity
8/10
Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Eviction
10/10
Accessibility/Ease of Use
10/10

Our Review

TransUnion’s SmartCheck Premium is the final and most comprehensive package offered by this company. This package includes all the reports previously available in SmartCheck Basic and SmartCheck Plus packages and adds only one additional feature.

Income Insights

The Income Insight reports that SmartMove offers are the additional service that differentiates between the second and third payment tier. These reports do not give the landlord income information; the landlord will not be able to view the tenant’s actual income.

Instead, it compares the self-reported income that the tenant provides when they accept the screening to their credit behavior.

It’s plain to see that there might be some issues associated with this metric. It is not 100% accurate by any means and the basis for the numbers that it provides are arbitrary. Say the tenant likes to save their money and doesn’t have a lot of credit behavior regarding yearly or monthly spending.

In this case, their credit behavior is in no way going to reflect their income. There’s no way around that, and there’s really no way to make this metric more reliable without compromising the privacy of the tenant.

Officially, this product is meant to recommend whether to ask for additional proof of income. It’s also meant to tell the landlord if there is a discrepancy between the amount of self-reported income and the credit-based payments they are making each month.

In some cases, this report can save some time. It can tell a landlord whether or not they should verify the income of the tenant before agreeing to lease to them, but the actual data has a lot of room for error. On the other hand, this is a unique service that might serve you well, and it’s only $2 extra to include it in the report.

It’s ultimately up to the landlord to decide if this report is worth bothering with. In theory, it sounds like a good idea, but the information has so many opportunities to be wrong that it’s up to the landlord if they choose to use it.

Overall, SmartCheck Premium receives a 9 out of 10 from us.

This is the most comprehensive package when it comes to predicting the tenant’s ability to pay. With the full credit report, ResidentScore, and now Income Insights, a landlord has a wealth of information they can use to make a decision. SmartMove Premium receives a 10 out of 10 in our Predicts Tenant’s Ability to Pay category.

The eviction report and credit report included in this package work together and build upon the criminal report that is offered here. However, criminal reports are still not available for some states, so SmartCheck Premium receives an 8 out of 10 in our Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Criminal Activity category.

SmartCheck Premium includes a nationwide eviction report, so it receives a 10 out of 10 from us in our Predicts Tenant’s Likelihood of Eviction category.

Finally, the reports here are easy to use, easy to read and interpret and give landlords all the information they could need when screening a tenant. SmartMove Premium receives a 10 out of 10 from us in our Accessibility/Ease of Use category.