Rent is the largest expense for most people. Yet, it's usually not even considered in a person's overall credit score.

For some members of the multifamily industry, rent history is the missing piece of information needed to evaluate potential residents.

That's why Experian RentBureau has been collecting rental history data and providing it to rental screening companies to help owners and property managers make better leasing decisions.

RealPage's LeasingDesk Screening also has an extensive database of actual rental payment history records to help owners select good residents. 

Rent is compelling piece of a person's credit history, says Brannan Johnston, vice president and managing director at Experian RentBureau.

In addition to providing managers with critical data, rent payment history can also help residents build their credit, he says.

"Many people who may not have much credit history have been regularly paying rent on time," he says. "That's the real opportunity, to get credit for their responsibility."

The firm has been working with the Credit Builders Alliance on a pilot program to encourage affordable housing organizations and others to report rent information.

Memphis-based ALCO Management operates about 7,000 affordable and conventional apartments across the Southeast. It uses rent history data along with credit and criminal history when screening prospective residents.

"We think it's been a good move," says Michael Johnson, executive vice president at ALCO. "We've increased the number of applicants."

He estimates that ALCO has expanded its pool of potential renters by roughly 12 percent because it is looking at rent history and not just credit history.

The firm has not specifically tracked how those renters perform once they are renting an apartment, but Johnson says there's been no major changes in ALCO's overall bad debt.

Experian's Johnston says more than 300 property managers are contributing data to his firm. The company has amassed information on about 9 million renters.

The data it collects is then shared with other apartment managers through different screening sources such as Yardi or LexisNexis.

According to Johnson, rental history data gets reported much faster than credit data. When someone has defaulted on a lease or has been evicted, that information is quickly reported and made available unlike credit data, which can take months.

He also makes the point that renters with a good track record of paying rent can build up their credit when companies take rent into account. "We report it whether it's good or bad," he says.