WHAT IS A CREDIT SCORE?The Tenant Credit Check Service feartured on mrlandlord.com, as well as others, provides a CREDIT SCORE on each applicant, along with each credit report. The score is helpful in determing whether an applicant is qualified. (Please note that most credit reports offered by other agencies do not automatically come with the score unless you pay extra.) The credit score is determined by comparing the applicants information to the patterns in millions of past credit reports. This score serves as an objective standard that can be applied equally to all applicants to help you in selecting a resident. Using the objective FICO credit score as part of your screening process also shows that you are attempting to follow Fair Housing guidelines and not illegally discriminate. This is an important safeguard. We receive many requests from landlords new to the credit check service, asking what does this score really mean?
WHAT DOES THE CREDIT SCORE MEAN?Below is just a suggested guideline that may be helpful when determining how qualified is a rental applicant. Though you will find as you request and read more and more credit reports, that you will and should begin to determine guidelines and selection criteria that you feel comfortable with. Landlords across the country vary in their opinion of what scores are acceptable for qualified residents, so included below are various landlord comments and suggested tips that you also may find helpful as you develop your own guidelines. The credit check service on mrlandlord.com pulls credit reports from Experian (national credit bureau). According to one Experian website, 340 is the lowest credit score on the scale, and 820 is the highest score. 9002 means insufficient reporting to establish a credit score.
SCORE AND RISK FACTOR
340 to 500 - worst risk
500 to 550 - high risk
550 to 600 - medium to high risk
600 to 650 - medium risk
650 to 700 - medium to low risk
700 to 820 - low risk
Two important things to remember. The SCORE is just one aspect of the credit report. It is vital that you read the entire credit report, and not just make your selection based solely on the score. Secondly, as you develop your own guidelines or selection criteria, be consistent and apply the same criteria to all rental residents.
The higher the better. Usually a person with a score of over 700 has or will be buying a home, especially with rates so low. In my opinion, anything lower than 550, I would not consider, unless it was because of medical bills. 550-600 I ask for an explaination. These guides work in my area so you have to consider your local market. Also, it's not just the number but what caused the number. Was it medical bills, divorce, or overspending on credit cards. For me,, that plays a big role as well.
Reading the entire report is a good idea, but the score is, in my experience, very telling. I no longer consider anyone with a score below 650, and will keep an apartment vacant looking for 700+ (until I am desperate for cash). Someone with 700 or more definately has the credit to buy a house, but may have any number of good reasons for not buying one. Someone with less than 650 has had problems paying their bills - quite possibly for any number of good reasons. In either case, those good reasons are their business, not mine. But their ability/willingness to pay their bills is what my business is based on.
LANDLORD COMMENT: I don't just look at the scores. I look at the substance of the report. I have seen people downgraded for goofy things! Like having too many credit cards - even if there are no balances. I look at the number of collections, civil judgments, payment history. I look at the addresses listed on the report as being their former residences and I find out the owners of record. I speak to their former landlords and employers. There are certain life circumstances I take into consideration: medical problems, divorce and student loans. Someone with a lot of student loans will receive a low score. Some people, even though covered by insurance may be overwhelmed with the copays!!! I had one such tenant whose wife had died of cancer after a long battle. He had unbelievable debt, but was our best tenant ever. In case of divorce - find out the date of divorce. If history looks bad throughout, it was not caused by the divorce. If it was all 1's and suddenly during the time of divorce turned horrible - they are telling the truth. Between the attorneys and vengeful spouses divorce can leave a person in terrible straits. The credit report is a tool - not the whole tool box!!!
LANDLORD COMMENT: We also use the credit report as a tool. We check to see that the addresses they listed on the application match up on the credit report...particularly the last 2 addresses. Credit card debt, medical bills and student loans do not carry as much weight as prompt payment of utility bills. We automatically reject tenants who have collections from the utility companies.
LANDLORD COMMENT: Both of the last two answers are right on track. I work with landlords everyday of the week running credit reports. It is extremely important to look at the whole credit report, not the score. I've seen perfect credit except for a Bally's account that was placed for collection and took the rating from a one to a nine. The following column includes key tips when using the credit report as a tool.
LANDLORD COMMENT: - TIPS WHEN READING A CREDIT REPORT
1) Watch out for bankruptcies. If you see a bankruptcy, make sure that it has been discharged. The discharge should be noted on the credit report. If not, ask the prospective tenant for a copy. If it has been discharged, look carefully at what they've done SINCE the bankruptcy. Are they repeating the same mistakes?
2) Look at the employment, is it garnishable?
3) Compare the date of birth with the first time the person used credit. If there is more than a twenty-five year gap, keep in mind that the information may not be theirs, or that they were married and the credit is in the spouses name, or that they were in prison and they are changing either their name or SSN (not legal) and starting over.
4) If whoever runs the credit comes back with the statement that there was no credit report, also run a straight Social Security number trace. The chances are that the person did not establish credit while at the addresses given to run the credit, so nothing came up. Or that they have inverted some of the numbers, in which case the trace will give you the name of the person who is actually associated with the Social Security number. I always require two years worth of addresses to make sure I get a quality report.
5) Don't make the mistake of running the husband's credit and not the wife's. They can both establish credit and you are looking for the total debt per month.
6) Look at the inquires at the bottom. Who has been looking at their credit lately? If it is human services, there may be child support due each month. If it is a car dealership, they may be considering purchasing a new car. If it is collection agencies, the address you entered will make it easier for the collection agency to find them and maybe garnish the wages.
7) Look at the public record section. Are there judgments, liens or garnishments? An active garnishment diminishes the income by 25%.
8) Look for fraud information: Is the address they gave a motel, hotel or PO box? Has the SSN been used fraudulently? Is there more than one name associated with the number?
Click here, if you need to use the Tenant Credit Check Service featured on mrlandlord.com to request a credit report and credit score on one or more rental applicants. Please note: Your first credit report is free!