Errors in tenant-screening reports are rampant, and can cause serious harm.
Tenant-screening reports, which 9 out of 10 landlords use when considering applicants, can contain false or outdated negative information regarding a prospective renter’s credit, eviction, or criminal history. Such errors are more common than you might think, making it challenging for many to rent an apartment or house. Worse, applicants may not know whether inaccurate, misleading, or outdated negative information on their report was the reason for the landlord’s decision.
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) recently issued two papers highlighting significant problems related to tenant-screening reports. Based on qualitative research, the CFPB opined that many businesses generating these reports violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"). The FCRA is a federal law that requires background check companies to follow reasonable procedures to ensure the “maximum possible accuracy” of the data in reports and prohibits them from including certain obsolete information. Tenant-screening businesses must also follow specific procedures when errors are disputed. The FCRA further requires landlords to give applicants proper notice if an adverse action is taken against them that provides contact information for the business who supplied the report and an explanation of the right to dispute the report. An adverse action could include denying a lease, requiring a co-signor, or charging higher rent than for another person.
According to the CFPB, tenant-screening companies often over-include certain kinds of data such as criminal and eviction records. These same businesses underinvest in the procedures needed to filter out erroneous information. Common issues with tenant-screening services include:
Negative information that doesn’t belong to the applicant, which the report attributes to the use of “name-only” matching and “wildcard” (i.e. partial name) searches by tenant screening companies;
Inaccurate or misleading information about an applicant’s evictions and rental debt; and
Errors in criminal record information as many tenant screening companies conduct minimal manual verification of information and continue to report inaccurate and incomplete civil and criminal public records.
The CFPB determined that complaints and interviews showed a lack of consistent compliance with FCRA dispute requirements by tenant-screening companies. Additionally, the research revealed that landlords are failing to adhere to the adverse action notice requirements. The CFPB concluded that “tenant-screening reports are an increasing area of concern for many across the country.”
The FCRA is designed to protect you and your family. Our team has a wealth of experience utilizing the law to help people with the following background-related problems:
Reporting records that don’t belong to you;
Reporting the wrong disposition or severity of criminal cases;
Reporting outdated public records such as a lien that is later satisfied or withdrawn; and
Landlords using the contents of a tenant-screening report against you without providing notice.
If you have been discriminated against based on errors in a tenant-screening report, contact us for a free consultation. We take cases of this nature on a contingency basis, which means you won’t pay any attorneys’ fees or litigation costs unless we obtain a settlement or judgment on your behalf.