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February 22, 2018 2:24 pm

Colorado Legislators Seek to Alleviate Burden of Rental Application Fees

Advocates for affordable housing access have frequently pointed to application fees as a barrier for renters. The amount low-income applicants can afford for upfront fees and deposits is often limited. With each property requiring its own rental application, initial costs can quickly add up in the search for available housing. Three Colorado lawmakers believe they have a solution to reduce those fees and assist low-income citizens in obtaining affordable housing. Rep. Domonique Jackson [D], Rep. Chris Kennedy [D], and Sen. Stephen Fenberg [D] are sponsoring a bill limiting rental application fees to assist citizens in obtaining affordable housing. Rep. Domonique Jackson cited applicants paying multiple or exorbitant screening fees while applying for homes as the primary reason for the bill. Measure BH18-1127 is not an entirely groundbreaking proposal. Several states already have similar legislation in place. One example is the cap California placed on how much a landlord can charge... View Article

January 24, 2018 1:23 pm

New Seattle Ordinance Throws a Wrench into the Tenant Screening Process

The City of Seattle added a new chapter to its municipal code, prohibiting the use of criminal history for tenant screening purposes except under very specific circumstances.  The law applies to most rental housing located within the city limits – with very limited exceptions – and is effective February 19, 2018. There is no argument that this legislation presents its own set of challenges and frustrations. The bottom line is, it passed and will take effect next month. With that, it is time to focus on understanding the new chapter (known as Fair Chance Housing) and “refine”  policies and practices in ways that allow for vigorous screening of prospective residents without becoming a target of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR). Essentially, Seattle’s Fair Chance Housing ordinance makes those with a criminal history a protected class for fair housing purposes.  It is unlawful for a landlord to deny tenancy... View Article

January 18, 2018 2:49 pm

Monitoring Your Credit Can Assist In Achieving Your Goals

2018 is here and the New Year means a chance to make a fresh start. While you are making resolutions to improve your personal health, why not also resolve to check on your credit health as well? You’d be surprised how many of those New Year resolutions rely on good credit history to become a reality.  A favorable credit score can make the difference between a good mortgage interest rate and a great one. Positive credit and reference history can help get you into that fantastic loft apartment.  Knowing what is on your credit can only help you succeed in achieving those New Year goals. Last year a record number of consumer information breaches were reported by several high-profile companies. Most American consumers were affected by at least one of those breaches. As a precautionary measure, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends consumers remain vigilant in monitoring their credit reports... View Article

November 10, 2017 8:09 am

Servicemembers and Rental Housing

There was a time not so long ago that many people either served in the military or had a close friend or family member who did – when there was greater awareness of the unique challenges faced by military personnel and their families – many around housing. Frequent moves, deployments and the risk associated with military service complicate the landlord-tenant relationship. These circumstances can make it impossible for the service member and their family to fulfill the terms of the typical rental agreement. Congress recognized these challenges with passage of the Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940 and subsequently the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003 (50 USC App §§501-596) – “<by providing> protections for issues involving taxation, house/apartment leases, car leases, interest rates and insurance”. “The SCRA protects those persons who serve on active duty for the nation’s defense, from adverse consequences to their legal rights that may... View Article

October 25, 2017 11:55 am

What You Should Know if You’re Considering a Credit Freeze

With last month’s announcement of a significant security breach at Equifax, consumers are being advised to take steps to protect their credit information.  One suggestion from the Federal Trade Commission is to place a freeze on your credit files. Placing a freeze on your credit report keeps lenders from accessing your credit. Your profile cannot be viewed by a lender until you lift the freeze.  Restricting credit access makes it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name. Each new loan or rental application will require you to go the credit bureau website and temporarily lift the credit freeze. Remember when you fill out an application to ask what credit bureau the lender uses so you can grant access to your report. Credit bureaus allow you to grant access to lenders for a period of time or give you a pin to provide to the lender... View Article

October 5, 2017 1:40 pm

The Massive Equifax Breach – Quality, Compliance & the Perfect Storm

There is little doubt that tenant screening is an important part of success in property management.  There is little doubt that tenant screening (a form of consumer reporting) is threatened by federal regulation, state and local legislation and an increasingly bold and well-funded consumer advocacy. And if that weren’t enough, there are the friendly fire incidents – landlords, managers and tenant screening companies who (often unintentionally) fail to comply with current law or best practices. Let’s face it.  It’s hard!  There is a considerable and growing body of law (of the legislative AND case law variety) impacting directly or indirectly the tenant screening function.  There is the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and its offspring in state law.  And, there are related fair housing statutes and the now well-established disparate impact legal theory. Last, but certainly not least there is the growing risk of a data breach – the compromise... View Article

August 30, 2017 2:29 pm

NCAP Implements Changes to Credit Reports

There is an ongoing and spirited debate regarding the accuracy of consumer credit reports, the impact of errors on consumers and the responsiveness of the three national credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax & Transunion – collectively “the bureaus”) to consumer disputes. Progress has been made over the last few years but most would agree, that there are still things we can do to improve the accuracy of reports.  This is good news for all three parties to the tenant screening transaction (applicants, landlords and the bureaus).  The benefit of improved accuracy extends to the validity of the various scoring models and the number of consumer disputes! The National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP) is an industry initiative – borne out of settlement discussions between the bureaus and 31 state attorneys general.  NCAP defines itself as follows: “The National Consumer Assistance Plan is an initiative launched by the three nationwide consumer credit... View Article

May 25, 2017 1:06 pm

5 Things to Consider Before Applying for Tenancy

So, you’re getting ready to go out into the rental market and find a great new place to rent! Are you aware that there are things you should consider before you begin submitting your application for tenancy?  Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re prepared: 1. Your Credit History Do you know what your credit report says? Most apartment applications include a check of your credit history. Before you start looking for a new home, check your credit first and make sure your reports are correct. Dispute any inaccuracies and consider paying outstanding debts which might keep you from qualifying for your rental. By federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax every 12 months through  Keep in mind credit disputes can take up to 30 days so make this your first step in looking for... View Article

May 8, 2017 2:09 pm

Eviction Records Criteria – In the Crosshairs

We’ve spoken (and written) for years about the “disparate impact” form of employment and housing discrimination – a legal theory with limited precedent… until recently, that is. Until now, the emphasis has been on the use of criminal records for tenant and employment screening purposes.  But there’s been little doubt that (as HUD calls it) the “discriminatory effects standard” would one day apply to use of eviction records for tenant screening purposes.  That day has come. In Nakita D. Smith (Plaintiff) vs. Wasatch Property Management, Inc., and Wasatch Pool Holdings LLC. (Defendants), filed in U.S. District Court in Western Washington on March 30, 2017, the Plaintiff claims that Defendant’s blanket policy to refuse to rent to all applicants with unlawful detainer records (without regard to the circumstances) disproportionately impacts black women in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU, ACLU of Washington, Northwest Justice Project... View Article

March 23, 2017 11:55 am

Don’t Forget The Rental Verifications!

Public information access is changing Public data access is constantly changing, and much of that change is driven by consumer rights groups. As privacy and discrimination laws have evolved, the amount of information available to the public has become more limited instead of expanding. Commercial data providers often add to the problem by reducing information access to decrease liability. Comprehensive background checks help bridge the information gap by providing better overall information.  These reports typically include credit history, rental verifications, employment/income verifications, and public records check.  It is true basic credit and court record checks are still popular due to lower costs and faster turnaround times. But for those landlords looking for depth and detail, a comprehensive report can be extremely useful. Credit reports show financial responsibility but limit details Payment history has always been the building block of any tenant screening background check.  Credit reports provide credit account payment... View Article