Reading the Market to Better Serve Members: One Trend Where They Could Use Your Guidance

You can assist your members by making them aware of current tools in the marketplace geared toward property owners—or independent landlords.


In a slumping economy, consumers are looking for ways to adapt to rising unemployment and falling property values. With this in mind, credit unions like yours have new challenges to contend with—and new responsibilities to your members. Many credit union members may be looking for the same type of guidance on this topic that you've provided them with for other hurdles they've experienced.

Consider how many of your current members might have existing investment property, or are now entering or expanding into property management ventures due to the decline in housing prices. These members could be made up of small businesses buying distressed assets. Or, they could be individuals who are unable to sell current investment properties and looking to generate extra income by renting them out.

According to July 2009 data from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), 10% of the 92 million credit union members have secured second mortgages. Some of these members have likely purchased properties other than their primary residence and are likely wanting to rent these properties out. That means that you may need to look at your current portfolio from a different perspective to find additional ways to help this type of member.

For these members, who are commonly referred to in the housing industry as "independent landlords," it's imperative that they have the right tools in place to screen their rental applicants and help protect their investments. That means everything from having the appropriate lease forms to managing the day-to-day operations, which can be a little overwhelming for those who aren't familiar with the property management business. More importantly, conducting a thorough background check on a potential tenant can help mitigate legal and financial risk and cut operational costs.

So how can you help? You can assist your members by making them aware of current tools in the marketplace geared toward such property owners—or independent landlords. Some resident screening solutions—such as TransUnion SmartMove —are designed for people who own and/or manage 100 or fewer rental properties. SmartMove is an online tenant screening platform that provides property owners with instant results while offering applicants data privacy. With these types of solutions, your members gain access to a leasing recommendation along with credit and criminal reports, while at the same time protecting the renter's sensitive information such as a Social Security number.

In fact, TransUnion has recently partnered with companies outside of the housing industry to bring the solution to different audiences—a dynamic that could easily apply to credit unions. For example, American Family Insurance offers SmartMove as part of a landlord resource center for policyholders entering or expanding their income property business.

'American Family found that our independent landlord customers were in need of a cost-effective service to run credit and criminal background checks on potential tenants," says Carolyn Gilb, vice president of commercial lines at American Family Insurance. "These customers are able to not only run these checks, but are provided with a recommended security deposit based upon their risk tolerance. American Family's partnership with TransUnion not only allows us to meet our customer’s needs at an affordable price, but also differentiates our products in the marketplace."

Additionally, solutions such as SmartMove can be adapted as a co-branded service with credit union member-only discounts and promotions targeted specifically to the member base to which they appeal. In the case of credit unions, it would be your members renting out property.

For more information, please either contact Mike Mauseth, Vice President of Product Development for TransUnion rental screening solutions at or David Dodson, Vice President of Credit Unions in TransUnion's financial services group at



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