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I'm staring at an Apartment Owners Association of California form, for a rental application. I'm perfectly willing to have my credit checked, regarding a rental property. But I'm nervous about giving the owner my full social security number, bank balances, driver's licence number. And it's not just one owner, might take several tries to get a place.

This is an all in one identity fraud kit.

Is there some other way? For example a service that I and the housing provider and I can both authenticate with, and authorize release of pertinent information?

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Yes, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax all offer tenant screening services wherein the applicant does not need to supply the landlord with their Social Security number.

I use TransUnion's SmartMove for tenant screening, and I do not see SSN's of prospective tenants or account numbers on their full credit report. I would imagine other competing services are comparable.

A landlord may not be inclined to use such a service because without your SSN they are unable to use a debt collection service to collect unpaid rent. This is a relatively small risk for landlords, but it is a downside to not collecting SSN.

From what I've seen these tenant screening services don't do full income verification, but they do assess reasonableness of the applicant's self-reported income. That may or may not be good enough for some landlords. Bank balances do help paint a picture of you as an applicant, but landlords don't need to see account numbers (though if you pay by check they'll see that one anyway).

A Driver's License is many people's only form of photo ID and therefore typically copied for identification purposes, or at least used to confirm the major pieces: Name, DOB, Address.

There are good arguments in favor of the tenant screening services and withholding SSN, but I think they're better suited for small-time landlords. Large companies often do sufficient volume of background/credit checks that they likely have cheaper arrangements and like generating revenue from their application process. Don't be shocked if they stick with their requirements.

Edit: As far as how the process gets initiated, the landlord creates an account, then they initiate the request. With TransUnion's Smart Move I create an application for each listing, and when I want to move forward with an applicant I provide the applicant's email, then the applicant gets an email from Smart Move stating that I'm requesting a background/credit check related to the specific listing and instructions/link to proceed if they so choose.

  • Yeah, I'm more worried about the small time landlord. Though even a big office can easily have a rouge employee skimming stuff. – Bryce Oct 29 '18 at 2:10
  • How is this done? equifax.com/business/resident-and-tenant-screening How does the tenant authenticate and identify themselves to the landlord and/or Equifax? – Bryce Oct 29 '18 at 2:30
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    @Bryce The tenant provides all the pertinent information to the service rather than to the landlord, so SSN, name, address, etc. Typically it's just a matter of providing tenant email to initiate. – Hart CO Oct 29 '18 at 2:50
  • Which of these services is most friendly to a small time landlord, e.g. one property? – Bryce Oct 29 '18 at 7:26
  • @Bryce I've only got experience with Smart Move, but it seems friendly enough. – Hart CO Oct 29 '18 at 12:58

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