Almost all landlords agree that their primary consideration when assessing a new tenant is protecting their rental income. To that end, landlords have traditionally looked at credit scores to assess the riskiness of a potential tenant.

At first glance, a typical credit score and SmartMove’s ResidentScore might appear very similar. However, there are key differences. So, which score is better for a landlord to use when screening a potential tenant? Let’s take a closer look.

The Comparison

Both a typical credit score and the SmartMove ResidentScore can help minimize risks when screening an applicant. However, ResidentScore is designed specifically for rental screening and is designed to provide a more accurate assessment of risk for your future rental property income than a typical credit score. With ResidentScore, you aren’t stuck basing your decisions on the same algorithms that a bank would use. Instead you are using a score that specifically analyzes predictors of a bad rental outcome.

“A common misconception people have today about credit/risk scores is that they are all intended to predict the same type of credit quality and bad outcomes,” says Ryan Nichols, Senior Analyst at TransUnion. “Banks and other financial institutions have been developing and maintaining industry specific models for decades. There is no one score to predict all potential outcomes. Models exist to predict how likely you are to repay a student, mortgage, auto loans, and more. By using a model specifically intended to predict rental industry outcomes, you will be more likely to identify good tenants than using a typical credit score.”

According to TransUnion’s research, ResidentScore predicts evictions 8%* more often in comparison to a typical credit score in the bottom 20% score range where risk is greatest.

To understand how ResidentScore can more effectively predict evictions than a traditional credit score, we need to examine how typical credit scores and ResidentScore are calculated.

Typical credit scores

What is a typical credit score? Put simply, it is a numeric representation used to predict likelihood of repayment.

Typical credit scores usually are designed to rate a consumer’s ability to repay credit. At its most basic level, lenders are trying to understand risk levels in order to establish the terms of an account consistent with the particular level of risk.

how credit scoring works

Did you know that there are hundreds of credit scores in the market?

Those scores vary based on the source’s criteria, ranking system, and proprietary models. Generally, two major factors that typically go into determining a credit score are


  1. Payment history
  2. Amount of money a person owes


Payments that are 30, 60, or 90 days late, as well as those that have fallen into collections, often will negatively impact a credit score. Other factors can include length of credit history, types of credit, and new credit applications.

A credit score gives a good indication of the type of behavior a lender can expect from a borrower.

Therefore, it makes sense that landlords would look at a person’s financial status as part of a decision whether or not they might make a good tenant. As a landlord or property manager, you use a variety of information to make that decision, and one of those factors should be financial behavior.

However, the rental industry calculates risk using different predictors than the credit industry. Just as auto insurance risk models attempt to predict the likelihood of an insurance claim and mortgage risk models are designed to predict the likelihood of foreclosure, SmartMove’s ResidentScore is designed to predict negative outcomes in the rental industry – more specifically, the risk of an eviction, 3+ late rent payments, and/or not sufficient funds (i.e. paying less than the total amount owed). A risk model specific to your industry will give you more accurate results, which is why ResidentScore works better for tenant screening. Now, let’s take a closer look.

SmartMove’s ResidentScore

ResidentScore is specifically built to look at the outcome of a lease, using the powerful data and analytics of TransUnion. TransUnion has collected rental outcomes of over 1.5 million individuals across the nation and identified the crucial pieces of credit data that are most indicative of bad outcomes. We combined those outcomes with thousands of TransUnion credit, demographic, and eviction characteristics to create a statistically-based model designed specifically to predict bad outcomes.

Based on TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions analysis, bad outcomes occur on 24% of residential property rentals. If a landlord’s primary concern is to protect their rental income, it is vitally important that a property owner screen correctly to reduce the risk of a bad outcome.

ResidentScore is tailored to the unique needs of landlords and built to predict evictions more accurately than a typical credit score. As we stated, not all credit scores are the same. We’ve analyzed actual renters with payment history taken into account, and identified pieces of their credit data that is more indicative of evictions. Close to 1,000 credit variables were analyzed to create ResidentScore. The chart below depicts at a high-level the kinds of inputs ResidentScore leverages.

elements of a resident score

ResidentScore looks at a typical lease term of 12 months and is designed to predict the risk of bad tenant-related outcomes during that time period.


  • Evictions and/or
  • 3+ late payments and/or
  • Not Sufficient Funds


Using a scoring range that is common in typical credit scores, prospective tenants are awarded a score from 350-850, with 850 being the best possible score. The score is designed to offer a rental recommendation, using a specific analytic scoring model that assesses the reliability and level of risk a tenant may bring.

resident score range diagram

By using ResidentScore in combination with a full SmartMove tenant screening package, you can get an in-depth look at an applicant’s background and reduce your risk. The end result can be a higher quality tenant.


You can use a typical credit score to evaluate your tenants, but ultimately you’ll get a more accurate assessment of risk with ResidentScore – which is designed specifically to predict bad outcomes in the rental industry. Armed with the information provided by SmartMove’s ResidentScore in addition to crediteviction, and criminal reports, you’ll be able to make more knowledgeable decisions about your applicants and protect your rental income.

Ready to screen your rental applicants? Get started with SmartMove tenant screening today.

*Based on 2015 TransUnion data