A new platform, Rentify, is an online tool to help property owners and managers improve their ability to screen prospects and identify ideal residents. The company says it uses an artificial intelligence-driven approach that replaces credit checks with a comprehensive analysis of prospects’ overall financial picture that leverages bank data.
“Credit checks don’t address the most important issue – the ability of tenants to pay rent every month,” says Rentify CEO Chad Guziewicz. “We didn’t set out to build a better way to check credit scores – we wanted to create a radical new approach to tenant verification based on looking at bank balances, total income, overdraft history, past rent issues and other factors. Our platform had a successful beta test over the last several months, and we are excited to roll it out to the market.”
Guziewicz says credit checks “don’t answer the questions that actually matter. Think of them as the 10 per cent of the iceberg that you see, not the hidden 90 per cent that can rip a hole in your ship without being detected until it’s too late. Credit checks basically answer one question: does an applicant pay off his or her credit cards. That’s useful information, but it doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. In fact, the majority of people who end up getting evicted for nonpayment of rent (about 70 per cent of all evictions in Canada) actually have average or above average credit scores.”
There are a lot of things that credit checks miss, says Guziewicz. “Landlords who rely on credit scores to verify applicants have zero visibility into whether or not a person has enough money in the bank at the end of every month to pay rent. If you’re a property owner or manager, that is pretty much the most important thing to know. Credit checks also don’t let landlords know if a prospective tenant bounces cheques several times a month. Or had to dip into overdraft. Or spends 20 per cent of his income on cat food. You would think that kind of information would be table stakes, but the fact that credit checks can’t even provide that kind of basic information is proof positive that they just aren’t incredibly useful,” he says.
Property owners can create a Rentify rental application, select their questions and criteria, and ask prospective renters to connect with their banking institutions to provide a detailed report called a Bank Check. This document contains the applicant’s bank balance, total income, employer information, overdraft frequency, rent payment issues, bill payment issues and red flags such as past bankruptcies, the company says. Rentify verifications are paperless, cost half as much as credit checks and can be done instantly, building instant trust between landlords and tenants by getting everything out in the open, it says.
Jamie Troke, owner of Ekort Property Management, which operates more than 200 rental units in Ontario, says, “We needed a better way to identify good tenants. Credit checks don’t give insight into monthly bank balances, but Rentify can give us access to that kind of information in a matter of seconds and show us applicants’ financial health and past activities to pick out ideal tenants. The results have been amazing. We can determine almost instantly if someone is a good fit.”
“Credit checks are the runny eggs and burnt toast of the property industry. We use them because we have always used them. But in the world of business, that’s not a particularly compelling reason to do anything. It’s not like we’re still using rotary phones in an era of smart devices, yet we are oddly comfortable relying on an approach to tenant verification that dates back to the 1980s,” says Guziewicz.