When a SmartMove Background Check Gets Your Criminal Record Wrong, We Can Help Make It Right.
Did a SmartMove background check report include inaccurate, misleading, or false information about your criminal record? These surprisingly common errors have a not-so-surprising impact on the chances that your rental application will be denied. Thankfully, you have rights! Empower yourself to fight back and make a full financial and emotional recovery.
- About the SmartMove Company
- How Does SmartMove Conduct Background Checks?
- Which Companies Use SmartMove for Background Checks?
- Can Errors Occur in Background Checks from SmartMove?
- You Can Sue SmartMove if Your Report Contains Errors
If you’ve been rejected from a rental opportunity due to errors in a SmartMove background check, you’re in the right place to learn how to make a full recovery.
Everyone in the rental market knows how hard it can be to find housing that meets your budget, location, commuting, school, and family needs. And anyone who has a criminal record knows how a criminal history can complicate the rental process. When your background is put under the microscope, and your fingers are crossed that your application will be accepted, it is absolutely deflating to learn that you’ve been denied. The disappointment is double if you’ve been working hard to make yourself a qualified candidate.
But when a rejection is based on unfair or incorrect reporting, especially of your criminal record, not only can it cause financial turmoil and housing insecurity, but it can also be fully traumatizing.
Keep reading to learn what exactly SmartMove is, what is included in its reports, how mistakes get made, how to fix them, and how to enforce your legal right to protect yourself when you need it the most. Our team of consumer law lawyers has helped thousands of people recover from reporting errors, and whether you need knowledge, advice, or representation, we can help you, too!
About the SmartMove Company
SmartMove is a tenant screening product offered by TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions (TURSS), which is part of the powerhouse credit bureau, TransUnion. If you aren’t already familiar with it, TransUnion is a consumer reporting agency (CRA), which means that it is in the business of buying and selling consumer data packaged as different types of reports. Along with Experian and Equifax, TransUnion is one of the three largest and most used CRAs in the nation. In fact, because of their size and influence, these three are known as the credit bureaus. They are multi-billion-dollar companies that produce and sell credit reports and provide credit scores for millions of consumers annually.
TURSS, or SmartMove, as the name indicates, is dedicated to producing rental screening reports, which are background check reports that focus on factors specifically important to landlords and property managers who are assessing rental candidates. This means that SmartMove’s clients are landlords, property owners, and property managers who use the SmartMove product to evaluate renters.
Why Does Being a CRA Matter?
The companies known as CRAs are subject to federal and state regulation. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is one of the key pieces of legislation in the consumer data industry. The FCRA grants you the right to accuracy in the reporting of your data, and it creates a series of legal obligations that CRAs must abide by when they create consumer reports by buying, sorting, and selling your data.
If a SmartMove tenant background check reports mistaken, inaccurate, misleading, or completely false information about you, particularly about your criminal history, it is liable under the FCRA.
How Does SmartMove Conduct Background Checks?
The landlord or property manager will send your email address to SmartMove, which will then email you a link to the platform. You’ll provide basic identity verification information and documents, as required, and authorize the background check.
SmartMove then uses algorithms to search databases of information for “hits” related to you, reviews and sorts the info, and generates a report, along with a Resident Score (see below for more details).
SmartMove gathers its information from a variety of sources, including data furnishers (the banks, service providers, and lenders you do business with) and third-party vendors (who scan public records, including county and criminal databases, for data).
How Long Does a Background Check from SmartMove Take?
The company states that a SmartMove tenant screening takes minutes to perform. For most candidates, this is likely the case. If your SmartMove screening is taking longer than this, even up to a few days, it is likely due to difficulties that slow the process, such as very common names that return a large amount of unrelated data requiring extra attention to ensure accuracy.
What Information Does SmartMove Provide in Their Background Checks?
A SmartMove background check report includes a SmartMove credit check (provided by TransUnion, obviously), a SmartMove Resident Score, criminal history and eviction history, and Income Insights.
SmartMove Criminal Background Check
According to SmartMove, the criminal background check includes a search of data from state records, along with certain national registries and watchlists, including the FBI’s Most Wanted, public sex offender registries, and OFAC.
SmartMove Background Checks for Rental Property
Along with a SmartMove credit check and criminal background check, your report will include a Resident Score and an Income Insights section. Both of the latter are proprietary features of a SmartMove tenant screening report.
For the Resident Score, the applicant’s credit history and credit score are calculated into a Resident Score. Scaled similarly to a credit score, it ranges from 350-850, draws on data from 500,000 resident-specific records, and purports to encapsulate a consumer’s likelihood of being a successful tenant. Such things as evictions, late payments, and broken lease obligations are part of the formula.
The Income Insights provides an estimate of all income sources and compares it to the tenant’s self-reported income. However, notably, TransUnion states that Income Insights is meant to signal a landlord or property manager to request further proof of income and should not be used to deny an application. This signals that the information, as it states in its name, is meant to be insightful but not determinative.
SmartMove Background Check for Employment
SmartMove only provides tenant screening services and does not create employment-related background check reports. However, TransUnion does offer employment screening tools through other segments of the company.
What Are the Consumers’ Rights Regarding a Background Check?
To really know your rights under the federal and state laws relevant to where you live, talk to a background check attorney. But for now, it’s helpful to know that you are protected under federal and state law, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and that state laws differ. The differences in state law are especially relevant to the reporting of criminal and eviction history.
As a basic starting point, know that you have the right to:
- Authorization. SmartMove can only run a tenant screening on you after it has verified your identity and received your express authorization. Simply getting a request from your prospective landlord or property manager is not enough. A link to provide authorization and identity information will be emailed to the email address you provide on your rental application.
- Accurate Information. Under the FCRA, the legal standard is that SmartMove must report accurate information and must rely on a system of protocols and reviews that ensure this accuracy.
- Review your reports. SmartMove must make its report available to you. If you cannot opt to receive it during the intake process, you can follow up with your landlord or property manager or contact SmartMove directly.
- Know why you were denied. If are denied housing based on the results of a failed SmartMove background check, you have the right to know why. Meaning you are entitled to know which specific information in the report caused the denial.
- Access your credit reports. You can access your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus weekly without any out-of-pocket cost. Do this online at annualcreditreport.com, by phone at 877-322-8228, or by mail (using the printable request form). Be careful to only use this government-verified site for online requests.
- Dispute mistakes. If SmartMove includes any inaccurate, misleading, or false information in your tenant screening report, you have the right to dispute it and seek error correction. Importantly, not only is obviously false information considered an error under the law, but so is misleading, inaccurate, and otherwise unreportable information. This is where state law can play a big role because some information may be technically accurate but count as an error in a consumer report because state law says that it’s not reportable.
You should also know that you don’t necessarily have to dispute certain mistakes. A lawyer can advise you on whether to dispute and offer guidance about the process.
- Sue the company that reported errors. If SmartMove reports incorrect, unreportable, or wrong information in your tenant screening report, you may have the grounds to file a lawsuit seeking correction and compensation. Because these errors can be so harmful, compensation might include money for financial, emotional, and reputational harm, among other things.
For certain reporting mistakes, you don’t have to show harm in order to seek compensation. For instance, you can sue for being mistakenly reported as deceased or for willful reporting errors without having to prove that you were harmed.
- Covered legal fees. Under the FCRA, you also have the right to sue without accruing burdensome out-of-pocket costs. So, if you sue SmartMove and hold it accountable, your legal fees and costs are covered by the company.
Which Companies Use SmartMove for Background Checks?
TransUnion does not publish information about which companies use its SmartMove product, but as part of the TransUnion family, it is likely to have a sizeable client base.
What do Companies Use SmartMove Background Checks For?
The clients utilizing SmartMove background checks are landlords, property owners, and property management companies that wish to screen rental candidates based on pre-determined criteria for specific properties. These clients and companies are interested in getting a full profile of a prospective tenant, including an assessment of their ability to make timely rent, satisfactorily complete the terms of the lease, maintain the property throughout the occupancy, and not present any safety issues for other tenants, residents, or neighbors.
Can Errors Occur in Background Checks from SmartMove?
Wanting to know if SmartMove makes mistakes is the equivalent of asking, “is SmartMove legit?” And the answer to both versions of this question is “Yes.” SmartMove is a legitimate company within the TransUnion family of entities. However, since it operates within the consumer data industry, using algorithms to generate reports (frequently in minutes!), it can and does generate errors in a certain percentage of reports each year.
Research has found that as many as one-third of consumers are impacted by reporting errors each year (across all types of consumer reports). This statistic includes consumers whose data is reported by tenant screening services like SmartMove.
What Causes Errors in Background Checks?
Common causes of errors are things like:
- Input errors: Also known as data entry errors, these are simply mistakes made by people (you or someone else) entering information into a system or database. With the number of accounts that most of us are affiliated with (banking, investment, retirement, benefits, loans, etc), there are an endless number of opportunities for these types of mistakes to happen.
- Mixed files: Also known as co-mingled files, this occurs when data from multiple people is reported in a single file. This typically happens when the individuals have basic similarities (such as name, birth date, or the like). These types of errors are relatively common and result in situations like someone else’s criminal history being reported as yours or someone else’s suspended account or fraud alert being reported as yours.
- Identity theft: When someone else uses your identity without authorization to conduct financial or other transactions, it can cause devastating financial problems, including reporting errors.
- Insufficient or shoddy protocols: SmartMove and other similar companies are expected to use adequate gathering, review, and reporting protocols to weed out information that does not belong to you. However, failure to do this is a common and persistent problem that has resulted in lawsuits, class actions, and consumer advocacy efforts. For instance, a mixed file should be something that is detected and corrected, not reported.
Main Types of Errors
If you’re wondering what it might look like to discover these reporting errors, you’ll look for things like:
- Transposition of digits in a Social Security Number or date;
- Wrong or incomplete information in original documents;
- Incorrect criminal records (e.g., misleading, inaccurate, false, duplicate, or unreportable data);
- Outdated information (e.g., expunged convictions that were not updated);
- Mistaken identity resulting in unaffiliated criminal records being associated with the wrong person;
- Information from identity theft and fraud scenarios that are reported as accurate;
- Information from someone else in your consumer profile (including data about criminal, credit, financial, employment, income, housing, and other categories);
- Mistakenly being reported as dead.
How Often Do Errors Occur in Background Checks From SmartMove?
Up to one-third of consumers annually are impacted by reporting errors. There is no data available to assess whether SmartMove generates reports within the margin of error for this research-supported estimate. We do note, however, that while all errors should be corrected, not all errors are equally harmful. So, not everyone impacted by reporting errors is sustaining significant harm, though some people are. If you’re one of them, we can help.
What Are the Consequences of Having Errors in Your Background Check Report?
The consequences can range from minor (a wrong date that doesn’t impact an outcome) to explosive (a false deceased indicator or a false criminal history that implodes an application). If SmartMove wrongfully reports information that fully derails your shot at a rental property, it can impact you in several ways:
- It can prevent you from renting any properties managed by the same owner, landlord, or company;
- It can prevent you from renting other properties in the region that use SmartMove;
- It can prevent you from leaving your current housing situation, which may mean being stuck in a difficult, unhealthy, unaffordable, impractical, or otherwise problematic situation;
- It may mean hastily finding alternative housing that is unaffordable, not the right size, in poor condition, unsafe, or too far from work, life, or school needs;
- It may cause emotional stress, sleepness, anxiety, and physical distress;
- It may cause reputational harm within the rental market, financial community, or among colleagues, neighbors, or others.
You Can Contact SmartMove if You Need to Correct an Error in the Background Report
Under the FCRA, SmartMove is required to provide a method for you to file a dispute of the information included in your tenant screening report. Generally, online, phone, and mail options are available. We recommend filing disputes by certified mail to avoid inadvertently waiving any rights. (See above for more details.)
What to Do if You Do Not Receive Answers to Your Questions on the Background Report
By law, TransUnion has thirty days to investigate and respond to your dispute. In thirty days, if you haven’t received a response or have only received an inadequate, unsatisfactory, or insufficient response, you should contact a consumer protection lawyer as soon as possible.
You Can Sue SmartMove if Your Report Contains Errors
One of the rights granted to you under the FCRA is the right to pursue a lawsuit against SmartMove for reporting errors. Some errors require that you file a dispute first and demonstrate some degree of harm, while others do not require a dispute or demonstration of harm prior to filing a lawsuit. A background check attorney can advise you on how the facts of your situation intersect with the law.
Who Can You Contact to Solve Problems with an Error in the Background Report from SmartMove?
A consumer protection lawyer is your best asset in resolving problems with SmartMove background check reporting errors. At Consumer Attorneys, our nationwide team of lawyers has helped thousands of clients recover from the problems caused by wrongful reporting, and we can help you, too.
Assistance in Disputing SmartMove Background Report
When you set up a free consultation with one of our lawyers, we’ll listen to the facts of your situation and advise you on the best course of action. If we recommend filing a dispute, we’ll offer insight into the best practices for doing so and make sure that you are maximally protected throughout the process.
If we recommend filing a lawsuit now (or after the dispute), we’ll guide you in understanding what the process entails and what information we’ll need you to gather.
Lawsuits Against SmartMove
We have helped thousands of consumers fight back against untrue, unjust, and unacceptable reporting errors, including those from SmartMove that have significantly derailed housing and rental opportunities. Below are two highlights.
False Criminal Record
During the pandemic, our client in Texas found a perfectly located, situated, and priced rental home for his family. However, TransUnion’s SmartMove platform generated a tenant screening report that included a wrongful criminal record. Specifically, the report stated that our client had two criminal events in his reportable past that disqualified him from the rental. He was ultimately able to get landlord approval after a harrowing process of creating affidavits and pursuing a dispute, though TransUnion’s response was unhelpful and continued to violate the FCRA. Despite still being able to sign for the rental, our client faced a cascade of consequences, including significant emotional turmoil, professional stress, and reputational harm. We sued TransUnion on his behalf to help him make a full financial and emotional recovery.
False Deceased Indicator
When our client was attempting to purchase land to build a new home, his family had an imminent need to sell their current home and secure rental housing. However, a SmartMove background check report (along with reports from other CRAs as well) falsely identified him as deceased despite an abundance of activity demonstrating that he was, in fact, alive and financially active. The process of resolving the erroneous reporting was made complicated and circuitous through ineffective responses. We supported our client with guidance and advice, filed a lawsuit on his behalf, and helped him obtain a significant settlement.
Ask for Our Help Now!
Our consultations are always free, and the FCRA makes TransUnion pay your legal costs and fees when you sue for reporting errors and win! With no out-of-pocket cost to you, discussing your SmartMove tenant background report mistakes with an experienced lawyer couldn’t be any easier!
We’re always happy to hear from you and offer support! And, with a nationwide practice, we’re right where you need us to be.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a background check take with SmartMove?
According to the SmartMove platform, tenant screenings are usually completed within minutes. Delays tend to be caused by inaccurate or incomplete information from the landlord, property manager, or rental applicant. In the background check reporting industry broadly, delays can also be caused by a need for heightened review. For instance, a report for an applicant with a very common first and last name may pull excessive, unrelated data that needs to be reviewed and excluded.
Is SmartMove legit?
Yes, SmartMove is legit. It is a tenant screening platform offered by TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions, which is a subsidiary company of TransUnion. The latter is one of the three largest and most used consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) in the nation, and along with Experian and Equifax, is known as one of the credit bureaus. Every significant financial transaction you engage in throughout your lifetime will involve one or several of the credit bureaus, including TransUnion. The reports generated by TransUnion and the other (CRAs) are part of the multi-billion dollar consumer data industry.
Is SmartMove a hard credit check?
This question isn’t particularly helpful or accurate. SmartMove is a comprehensive tenant background check that includes a credit history (provided by TransUnion), along with the reporting of other categories of information. Among the information included is your criminal record (including county, state, and national watchlists and registries), rental and eviction history, Income Insights, and a Resident Score. The latter two are proprietary concepts generated by SmartMove. The determination of whether to accept or reject your rental application is based on the parameters your landlord or property manager sets. In other words, the part of passing a SmartMove background check that may be “hard” depends on the expectations and decisions of the person operating the rental. SmartMove simply provides the requested information. (Though if it provides incorrect information, you have legal rights!)
How do I interpret a SmartMove credit report?
A SmartMove tenant screening report contains information across several categories of consumer data, including SmartMove credit report. Each area is clearly identified, labeled, and briefly explained so that you have an understanding of what the data is meant to convey. Importantly, your SmartMove report is basically neutral. You can’t really interpret it beyond reading the information it presents. The interpretation of your report is done by the landlord, property manager, or owner and is entirely dependent on the factors that are important to them in making application decisions. Different landlords and property managers have different rental criteria and use different analyses to interpret SmartMove reports and make decisions.