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RentReporters Review: A Step on the Credit-Building Path

Credit Score, Personal Finance
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RentReporters-logoMortgage payments give homeowners a powerful way to build credit. Renters, however, lose out: Most credit scoring models don’t consider rent. Even when it is considered, most renters’ payments don’t get reported to the credit bureaus.

RentReporters and other rental reporting agencies inform one or more credit bureaus about a tenant’s rental payments so the information can be added to credit reports.

Building your credit reports is important because those reports provide the raw material for credit scores — and credit scores are what lenders look at when deciding whether to offer you loans or credit cards.

Rent reporting can help consumers who are “credit invisible” or who have thin credit files fatten up their reports, a step toward establishing or building credit. When credit bureau Experian tested the effect of including positive rental history for residents of subsidized housing, all previously unscorable residents became scorable. For those who already had credit scores, the average gain was 29 points on the VantageScore 3.0 scoring model.

RentReporters at a glance

How RentReporters works

How RentReporters is different

Where RentReporters falls short

What does RentReporters cost?

What to know

RentReporters at a glance

To review RentReporters, NerdWallet collected pricing and other information, reviewed the online application process, interviewed company representatives and compared the company with others that target the same customers.

RentReporters might be a good fit for you if:

  • The credit bureaus have little or no credit data on you, and you have been paying your rent on time
  • You have been at your current address for several months and won’t have to pay extra to include previous landlords in order to build length of credit history
  • You have a credit score that’s in the mid-600s or lower

RentReporters may be less valuable if:

  • You’ve had rent payments that were 30 or more days late
  • You already have a loan or credit card; that’s a very effective route to credit-building, if you pay on time and keep credit utilization low
  • You haven’t been at your current address for long and would have to pay more to include previous landlords

How RentReporters works

RentReporters verifies with a landlord that rent was paid and then reports the payments to TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus. You, not your landlord, initiate the request. You continue to pay rent to your landlord in the same way, and you pay the RentReporters fee separately.

The company gives a full refund if your landlord refuses to cooperate. But landlords have an incentive to participate because renters trying to boost their credit in this way are likely to pay on time.

The service will report up to 24 months of payments to your landlord. If you haven’t been at your current address that long, you can add past landlords at an extra cost.

RentReports-signup

Image from RentReporters website.

To sign up, you’ll need contact information for your landlord, as well as the date you moved in. You’ll have to give your Social Security number; RentReporters uses bank-level security to protect your personal data.

Your rent payments should appear on your TransUnion credit report within days; then RentReporters sends you an email with your new VantageScore 3.0. The company encourages clients to check their scores before signing up so they know their starting point. You can get a free VantageScore from a number of sources; NerdWallet offers a free TransUnion VantageScore, which updates weekly.

VantageScore and FICO 9 scoring models consider rent, so adding rental history could help build your scores on those. However, most lending decisions still rely on earlier FICO versions, and those don’t factor rent into scores.

That’s an important point: If you’re using RentReporters in order to qualify for a credit product, such as a credit card, you might need to find an issuer that specifically uses TransUnion data and a scoring model that looks at rent.

CEO John Simpson says many RentReporters customers already have a credit score, “but they can’t get the best products … they can buy a car, but they may be paying 15% interest.” Those consumers can benefit if additional credit and payment history bumps them into a higher score range, which then lets them get better credit terms.

There are other ways to bolster your credit profile, too. You may want to look into a credit-builder loan or a secured credit card. If you can get one of those from a creditor that reports to all three credit-reporting bureaus, that’s ideal because loan and credit card payments are factored into every credit scoring model.

How RentReporters is different

RentReporters doesn’t require its clients to pay rent online or change the way they pay their rent, as is the case with some competitors, such as RentTrack.

Simpson says the company’s educational resources set it apart, because many customers don’t understand how credit works. “We want to help people and educate them,” he says. RentReporters has a blog, newsletter and Facebook Live sessions to help clients build credit and avoid missteps. “We don’t want people to go get a card and charge it to the limit,” which would damage their scores.

Where RentReporters falls short

Because the company reports only to TransUnion, its reach is limited. The company says it may report to Experian and Equifax soon. It also plans to add a customer portal, but for now, clients receive status updates via emails or by calling the company.

Also note that the company’s user satisfaction guarantee about your initial score bump has a time limit. Once RentReporters adds rent payments to your credit report and emails your new score, you have only 48 hours to cancel the service and get a refund. RentReporters then removes the rental history, which in turn shifts your credit score back to what it would have been without the service.

Read RentReporters’ educational materials and advice with the understanding that it wants you to buy its services. It sometimes overemphasizes the role of rent reporting in a broader credit-building strategy.

What does RentReporters cost?

You pay a $45.95 fee for setup, and then ongoing reporting costs $9.95 a month. You can pay by credit or debit card, and you can add previous landlords for $50 each. If you want others on the lease, like a roommate or spouse, included in the reporting, you pay an additional $50 setup fee.

One year of basic service — setup and monthly reporting only — adds up to $165.35. You could pay less if you cancel the service as soon as you qualify for the credit product you hoped to get.

Our advice: Rent reporting can be useful if it’s more affordable for you than coming up with the deposit for a secured credit card or making the payments on a credit-builder loan. But use it only as long as it takes to qualify for a credit card or loan, ideally one that reports to all three bureaus.

Once you have a traditional credit line, that should be your main credit-building tool. Using credit lightly and paying on time will influence your score more powerfully than having rental payment history on your reports.

What to know

Ask these questions about any rental reporting service you’re considering:

  • What would my total cost be for a year of service, including any setup fees or fees to include information from previous rentals?
  • How do you protect my personal data?
  • Which of the major credit bureaus do you report to? (All three is ideal.)
  • Do you provide free access to credit scores? If so, which score or scores?
  • How soon should I expect the information to appear on my credit report?
  • How can I cancel the service?

Bev O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.

Updated Aug. 25, 2017.