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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 www.annualcreditreport.com.  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

November 29, 2016 1:51 pm

HUD Guidelines Provoke Change to Process & Criteria

Two recent developments have “encouraged” us to take a fresh look at the use of criminal records for tenant screening purposes – the process and criteria. Washington State’s Office of the Attorney General is actively shopping rental properties and taking action against those they judge to be in violation of HUD’s “Criminal Records Guidelines” and “Discriminatory Effects Standard.” The United States Justice Department filed a statement of interest arguing that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires that landlords who consider criminal records in evaluating prospective tenants do not use overly broad generalizations that disproportionately disqualify <protected> individuals.   Landlords and property managers are being asked (compelled) to conduct individual assessments of an applicant’s criminal history before denying tenancy – to take into account the nature of the offense, when it occurred, the applicant’s age at the time and other factors. There are several potential problems associated with individual assessments. Staff... View Article

October 10, 2016 8:09 am

California Public Records – not so public anymore!

AB 2819 prohibits access to the majority of eviction records – removing an important tool in the landlord’s risk management arsenal.  What to do?? Background Previously, eviction lawsuits (termed unlawful detainers or UD’s in legal circles) became public 60 days after the filing date – unless the tenant prevailed within 60 days of the filing date.  Ironically, it is the eviction that just occurred, and that has not found its way onto the credit (or tenant screening) report that may represent the greatest threat to the landlord. Not satisfied, advocates argued that while UD’s are supposed to be heard within 20 days of filing, delays commonly pushed hearings past the 60 day mark.  Those (tenants) who then prevail are unfairly associated with an eviction lawsuit, which of course, has a negative impact on their access to housing. AB 2819 addresses that concern by “masking” eviction lawsuits permanently unless a judgement... View Article

September 23, 2016 2:10 pm

Significant Changes to Credit Reporting – Coming Soon!

The three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion) with the encouragement of the attorney general of New York and others have concluded that some public records do not meet current standards for accuracy. These standards are based on service levels for collection and timely updating of that (public records) information. They identified numerous challenges associated with current reporting practices, including: Lack of personal identifying information A lack of consistency of the storage of electronic records Differences in availability, accessibility and update frequency by the courts The collaboration resulted in the establishment of data standards and service level requirements for the collection and timely updating of public records data. More importantly, a commitment was made by the bureaus to comply – signaling significant changes to the public records component of their credit reports. BOTTOM LINE The greatest impact will be on reporting of civil judgments – including judgments in favor... View Article

August 29, 2016 4:14 pm

Seattle Open Housing Ordinance – Effective September 16!!

The recently passed Seattle Open Housing Ordinance (SOHO) is a product of the mayor’s Housing Affordability & Livability Agenda (HALA).  It will impact landlords and property managers in several ways.  In a nutshell, it: Requires owners and managers to… accept “legal and verifiable” income from virtually any legal and verifiable source… Apply the income multiple threshold to the applicant’s share of the rent only… Assist applicants (more often, residents) to access rental assistance and subsidy programs… and Expand criteria to include a list of all the information, documentation & other submissions required to apply/qualify for the rental home. Prohibits preferred employer programs that… Offer favorable terms to employees of particular companies which may inadvertently discriminate against some protected groups. Requires owners and managers to screen applicants on a first come, first served basis starting with the first applicant to present a completed application, all the required information, documentation and other submissions. The Source of... View Article

June 20, 2016 2:00 pm

Dispelling the Myths of The Portable Tenant Screening Report

Recently passed legislation in Washington State is generating quite a buzz in the rental housing industry. Washington Senate Bill 6413 contains three distinct provisions, one of which speaks to portable tenant screening reports. Please note that the word “portable” is not used in the legislation.  That is important, since the word portable suggests the applicant physically carries their report from landlord to landlord. While they can certainly do that, to qualify as a “comprehensive reusable tenant screening report” as now defined in RCW 59.18.030 – the report must be available directly (securely) from the tenant screening company. Moco Inc. developed, markets and supports the industry’s first and (as far as we know) only comprehensive reusable tenant screening report as defined in the statute.  We’ve done so for over seven years under the MyScreeningReport.com® brand (MSR).  Still, MSR is relatively new.  There are, as a result, misconceptions regarding what it is... View Article