Alaska-grown tenant watch aims to expand; renter-screening service compiles speedy, detailed reports.

Author:Pounds, Nancy
Position:SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT
 
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The landlord surveyed the stained, shredded carpet and fist-sized hole in the apartment wall. Quick math told him the cost for repairs would outpace any profit he might have gained from the renter. He shook his head grimly, gritted his teeth and vowed to do something differently next time.

Alaska-owned Tenant Watch provides a service to screen potential renters, helping landlords with only a few units to multi-property management companies. The growing service inspects credit reports, eviction history and other court documents and sex offender lists. The resulting report is usually compiled and faxed back within 15 to 30 minutes of receiving a renter's application, said Camie Stephen, vice president of Credit Services LLC, which operates Tenant Watch.

The report also includes information from Tenant Watch's informant database--details about a renter from a network of landlords. This feature distinguishes Tenant Watch from other tenant-screening services, said Jeremiah Stephen, Credit Services president. Was the renter quiet or raucous? Did the landlord have to replace the carpet after the renter left? Similar details are revealed from previous landlords' reports. Landlords receive discounts on services for participating in the database.

In 2003, the Stephens bought Tenant Watch from fellow Fairbanks resident David Chausse', who started the company in 1994. Already managing a court documents business, they also acquired his process-serving company as well and envisioned how the businesses would work together.

A NEW AGE

The Stephens have modernized Tenant Watch, replacing paper files and outdated computer programs. The company represents about 200 customers and has logged more than 45,000 records statewide. Most Tenant Watch customers are in Fairbanks although some large multi-unit customers are in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Camie said. They've also conducted tenant-screening in Bethel and Dillingham.

"The business has grown 20 percent to 30 percent each year in the last two years," Camie said.

She's proud Tenant Watch has grown largely by referrals. Her husband attributes the success to smooth customer service, handling many types of clients.

The American Apartment Owners Association's Web site calls tenant screening "the backbone of successful property management" and works with a large national tenant screening company. Some major national companies review Alaska renters, but often the information is outdated by three...

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