Plenty of credit-checking options for mom-and-pop landlords

Question: My husband and I independently rent a home in our neighborhood. Our question is, how does an independent landlord run a credit report on prospective tenants? Can you recommend good tenant screening services to run a credit report and criminal record check? Are there sites online for a reasonable fee? One solution perhaps is to ask the tenant to pay for and to give us a copy of a credit record; however, we need to know reputable credit report agencies to refer them.

Answer: You are wise to run a credit check on prospective tenants, because one of the best ways to determine whether you will get paid your rent on time is to examine the rental applicant’s history of paying their personal bills on time.

There are several ways to get a credit report. I own a couple of rental houses and when I want to check a rental applicant’s credit I have an advantage because I also own a mortgage company, so I’m already set up with a credit agency account. The credit agency we use is called Alliance 20/20, and it also offers a tenant screening service for private landlords, as well as professional property managers. Other credit reporting agencies offer similar services.

There are also many private tenant screening companies that you can find by doing a quick search on the Internet. I don’t want to make a personal recommendation for any of the services because I haven’t used any of them, but you could do some research on your own and see if you find one you like.

Another option is an organization I like called the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound, which is a non-profit organization that serves the needs of rental housing owners, from single rental house owners to large apartment complexes. They offer tenant screening services for their members through a third-party service. Find them online at

Whichever service you choose, you should pay for the credit report yourself and have it delivered directly to you. Do not allow a rental applicant to give you a copy of their credit report because it may be fake.

Also, I advise you to get a full tenant screening report, not just a credit report. Most credit reporting agencies and tenant screening services will give you a choice of different levels of reporting.

For example, Alliance 20/20 offers three levels of tenant- screening reports:

  • Credit report only.

    Credit report, Washington Statewide Criminal Search and a 3-year eviction history.

    Credit report, Washington Statewide Criminal Search, 3-year eviction history, 2-year verified rental history, and a 2-year employment history.

    Naturally, the third type of report would be the most expensive, but you are renting a very valuable asset to somebody you’ve probably never met, so it’s wise to know as much about them as possible before you let them move into your rental house.

    You may collect a rental application fee to cover the costs of the tenant screening service, but you may not make a profit on the fee. The application fee must the actual amount you are paying to the tenant screening service, no more. You must also provide the rental applications with the name and contact information for the tenant screening service that you used if they want to challenge information contained in a report that was used to reject their rental application.

    Mail your real estate questions to Steve Tytler, The Herald, P.O. Box, Everett, WA 98206, or e-mail him at

    Talk to us

  • More in Herald Business Journal

    The growing business district along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, looking west toward I-5. At lower left is the construction site of the new Amazon fulfillment center. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)
    Marysville-Arlington road improvements won’t happen at once

    Traffic improvement projects near the Cascade Industrial Center will take shape over the next decade.

    The first flight for United Airlines servicing Paine Field taxis to the gate on March 31, 2019. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
    Come October, United Airlines will discontinue flights at Paine Field

    The airline is one of two commercial carriers at the Everett airport. United flies to Denver.

    Community leaders and officials break ground at the Port of Everett's Norton Terminal at the former Kimberly-Clark mill site along the waterfront Thursday morning in Everett on July 15, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
    Legacy of pollution makes Everett port project ‘challenging’

    The former Kimberly-Clark mill site is nearing the end of a complex cleanup, part of a $36 million terminal project.

    File - In this Sept. 24, 2014 file photo, smoke hangs over Reno-Tahoe International Airport as a plane takes off in Reno, Nev. A shortage of jet fuel, coupled with supply chain issues and an urgent demand from firefighting aircraft, continues to cause problems at airports around the West. In Nevada, state and federal lawmakers said they are investigating a possible shortage of jet fuel that could delay cargo delivery and passenger travel at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in the coming days. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine, File)
    Airports in the US West dealing with shortage of jet fuel

    Supply chain issues and an urgent demand from firefighting aircraft have combined to cause problems.

    Festive seafood specialties, modern delicacies with a beautiful presentation on the plate. Delicious dish - tender fish meat, with greens, lemon and vegetables. Cartoon vector.
    You voted: The best seafood in Snohomish County

    Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

    sandwich with ham, tomatoes, lettuce and toast isolated on white background, healthy breakfast, lunch
    You voted: The best darn sandwich in Snohomish County

    Even during a pandemic, people have their favorites

    FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2019, file photo, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference in Seattle. Washington state sued Johnson & Johnson on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, claiming the company was negligent when it used deceptive marketing to say the drugs were effective for treating pain and were unlikely to cause addiction. The lawsuit filed Thursday says the company that supplies raw materials used to make opiates drove the pharmaceutical industry to recklessly expand the production of the drugs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
    Washington AG rejects opioids settlement, wants trial

    The proposal would pay Washington about $527.5 million over 18 years if cities and counties opt in.

    This photo provided by Blue Origin,   Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, exits the  Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule after it parachuted safely down to the launch area with passengers Mark Bezos, Oliver Daemen and Wally Funk, near Van Horn, Texas, Tuesday, July 20, 2021.  (Blue Origin via AP)
    Blue Origin’s Bezos reaches space on 1st passenger flight

    The Amazon founder is the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.

    FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020 file photo, a motorcyclist cruises past the Renton, Wash., Boeing plant where 737's are built. Boeing is temporarily lowering its delivery target for the 787 Dreamliner after discovering additional work that will need to be performed on the aircraft. The company said Tuesday, July 13, 2021, that the 787 production rate will temporarily be lower than five per month and will gradually return to that rate. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, File)
    Boeing cuts production on the 787 to address a new flaw

    The problem is on the forward pressure bulkhead, which keeps the plane’s interior pressurized.

    State makes low interest loans available to small businesses

    The state Department of Commerce is partnering with financial institutions and community-based organizations.

    Commercial center taking shape off Highway 9 in Lake Stevens

    A bowling alley? Maybe. Potential tenants are showing interest and locals have their own wish list.

    Wil Peterson is a cashier at Fred Meyer in Everett, but won't receive the temporary $4 per hour hazard pay increase that many grocery workers in unincorporated Snohomish County will receive.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
    Geography defines who gets grocery hazard pay — and who doesn’t

    The county required at least eight grocery stores to temporarily boost pay in unincorporated areas.