Landlords are especially vulnerable during this time, due to the COVID-19 restrictions on evictions and the high backlog of eviction hearings in most Canadian provinces, which cause delays in hearings. Consequently, it is very difficult for landlords to deal with delinquent tenants, and it’s not unusual for landlords to lose at least six months of rent because of delays in the eviction process.
Due to these higher risks, it’s even more important that landlords do a very good job of screening tenants before signing the lease to minimize the chance of signing a delinquent tenant, which can be very costly.
Luckily, we have researched the top-three tenant screening tools, based on popularity, in the Canadian market to make sure that you have all the data you need to make a good decision on which tenant to rent to.
Features landlords care about
You’re looking for a service to help streamline the rental application process and do a better job screening your tenants. With that in mind, here are the features that landlords who are looking to do that should care about most.
Detailed credit report
When you’re a landlord, ideally you want to see a detailed credit report of everything you need to know to make an informed decision and choose the right tenant. The problem is having limited information—for example, if you only have a credit score, that doesn’t show you the full picture. How good is the rental applicant at making their rent payments on time? Does the rental applicant have missed payments on any of their credit accounts? Without these critical details, you could end up choosing the wrong tenant.
Fast credit checks
When choosing tenants, you want a credit check that’s fast. In today’s rental environment, where there are more vacancies in a lot of markets than during pre-COVID-19 times, if you take too long to get back to a prospective tenant, by the time you’re interested in renting to them, they could have already signed a lease at another place.
To avoid an unfortunate situation like that, it’s important to choose a credit check service that’s fast. Ideally, a service you can find out a tenant’s credit score in less than an hour and help make your decision about whether or not you want to rent to them shortly thereafter.
Easy to understand report
It’s great to receive a tenant screening report in a timely manner as long as you can understand it. Have you ever tried to read a credit report and been confused about what you’re looking at? You’re not alone. A tenant screening report is only useful if you can actually understand it. Credit reports are written in the language for lenders, not landlords, to understand. You ideally want a tenant screening report that’s already been deciphered for you so that you have all the information you need to pick the perfect tenant.
Easy rental application process
Rental applications can be tedious and a pain in the neck, but they don’t have to be. Imagine having rental applicants complete a rental application by hand and then having to key in all the information online to receive a tenant screening report. Imagine doing that for dozens of applicants. There has to be a better way, and thankfully there is. If you’re looking to save time, you’ll want a rental application process that’s automated. By having prospective tenants complete the application online rather than by hand, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and headaches.
One of the biggest fears as a landlord is that you’ll have a tenant who refuses to pay the rent. It might not even be the tenant’s fault. They could be laid off because of the pandemic.
Choosing your tenants wisely is more important than ever these days, with the courts shut down or backlogged. It could take you anywhere between six months to a year to evict a bad tenant. During this time you’ll be expected to continue making your mortgage payments, even if you don’t have rent coming in from the tenants. This can be tough. You could have to borrow money to make your mortgage payments. This isn’t a good situation to be in.
That’s why it’s helpful to use a service that offers some sort of rent guarantee. That way if the tenants can’t pay the rent, at least you’ll receive some money so you can still make your mortgage payments on time and protect your credit score.
Help removing bad tenants
Let’s say all else fails and you need to remove a bad tenant. What do you do? You want a service that provides you with the help and resources that you need to evict bad tenants in a timely manner so that you can get good tenants into your unit and keep making the mortgage payments. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re on your own and to have to figure it all out yourself.
Good customer service
When you need help, you want good customer service that responds to your individual needs. While you’d like to think that you can figure everything out on your own, even the smartest people need help sometimes. Some customer services leave a lot to be desired. You can wait days for a response or never receive one at all. You want to use a service with customer service that’s responsive and that answers your questions within hours, if not minutes.
With all of this in mind, we compared the top tenant screening tools in Canada for landlords to help choose the perfect tenants. Our findings are below:
If your eyes glazed over when you looked at our chart of the top tenant screening tools, there’s no need to worry. We highlighted some of the important things to focus on when looking for the best tenant-screening tool.
SingleKey and Naborly have no membership fees and only charge $25 per report—you pay as you go. RentCheck has a membership setup fee of $30-$75 and then charges at least $38 for their tenant report. They are by far the most expensive, but they do offer discounts to various organizations.
For small individual landlords looking for an affordable option, SingleKey and Naborly are your best bets. If you’re a professional landlord with several dozen doors, a service like RentCheck can make more sense.
User-friendly for landlords (visual)
Both SingleKey and Naborly make it very easy for landlords to sign up and place an order. When the report is ready, both of their reports are visual and intuitive to read. We really like how SingleKey puts the four most important metrics at the very top and displays them as colourful gauges, which include: Overall Tenant Score, Credit Score, Rent to Income Ratio, and Monthly Debt payments. You can quickly glance at these numbers and get a feel for the applicant’s credit quality and their ability (affordability) to pay the rent.
Tenant application (ease of use)
SingleKey and Naborly have a tenant application where you can invite a tenant with their email and they will send them a comprehensive Rental Application form to collect their information and consent. In this form, tenants can also upload proof of income (pay stubs and employment letters), photo ID and pet pictures. Rentcheck does not have this functionality, making the Rentcheck process a lot more tedious.
We have to give the edge to SingleKey here, as tenants find it easier to fill out, with many fields optional, unlike the Naborly form that can be cumbersome to fill out for the tenant, leading to tenant complaints and drop-off. Lastly, SingleKey also sends tenants text message invites, so they can apply on their phone, making the application process that much easier. That’s why they win this category.
Tenant or landlord can pay
Both SingleKey and Naborly offer this feature—when they invite a tenant to fill out an application, they can choose to have the tenant make a credit card payment at the end. This is a lot better than asking your tenant to pay cash for the credit report, especially during pandemic times. RentCheck offers this option, which is a real letdown.
Credit report quality
SingleKey offers a very detailed report that breaks down applicant debts down to each tradeline: you’ll see what credit card they use. It also breaks down the balance owing, and monthly rent payments for each trade. Lastly, they also include collections and bankruptcy details in the report. Naborly on the other hand does not show the trade-by-trade breakdown, but instead rolls up their total balances and payments—this seems to be a lower-tiered Equifax Report. RentCheck also claims to offer a full credit report, and given the higher price point, we assume that they have the same level of detail as SingleKey.
SingleKey and Naborly both get their credit information from Equifax, which is the preferred credit-reporting agency. With RentCheck, you can order either an Equifax or Transunion report, or pay extra to get both ($51), which is nice if you want to be particularly cautious but isn’t necessary in a lot of cases.
Tenant court record check
SingleKey is the only company that includes a Court Record check in their $25 reports, which really sets them apart in terms of value. This feature provides an analysis of over 200,000 databases from each province looking for criminal records, court decisions, negative press, public biographies, past employment, past addresses, and more. The best part is that this report is done in only five minutes, making it the fastest court record check in Canada.
National criminal record check
None of the three providers include a National Criminal Record Check (or police check) as part of their standard pricing. However, RentCheck offers the ability to upgrade to a police check for an additional $60. This may be worth it, depending on how thorough you want to be. If you’re a landlord for a living and rent places out on a monthly basis, this feature may be worthwhile for you. For part-time landlords, it probably isn’t necessary.
SingleKey and Naborly both allow landlords to create an account instantly through their automated enrollment process, making the sign-up process incredibly easy. Meanwhile, RentCheck quotes a four-hour account verification turnaround time. In this category, we give the slight edge to SingleKey and Naborly.
How long does the report take?
The rental market moves fast, so it’s important that your tenant screening is done quickly, otherwise, you could miss out on good quality tenants. Both SingleKey and RentCheck offer almost instantaneous credit check results, while Naborly quotes a 90-minute turnaround time.
While RentCheck is a trusted company with a long history in this space, unfortunately, their technology and website design haven’t kept up with the times. Naborly and SingleKey both offer sleeker, smoother web interfaces and with much more functionality for both landlords and tenants. Both Naborly and SingleKey are available at more affordable prices, as well.
Based on the comparison results above, we give the edge to SingleKey over Naborly as the best credit checking service in Canada for the following three reasons:
Value: they offer the higher-tier Equifax Report and their Court Record Check for only $25, which is an unbelievable value.
Speed: turnaround time is only five minutes instead of 90 minutes, and speed in the rental market matters.
Easy: while both Naborly and SingleKey do great jobs of simplifying the process, we found the SingleKey report easier to read and the tenant application process was considerably easier with SingleKey.
About the author: Sean Cooper is the bestselling author of Burn Your Mortgage, a personal finance reporter, speaker, and money coach
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Written by Canadian Real Estate Wealth.
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Canadian Real Estate Wealth