Need to Know!

Categories for Direct-to-Consumer Screening

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® brand (MSR).  Still, MSR is relatively new.  There are, as a result, misconceptions regarding what it is... View Article

May 23, 2016 8:38 am

Credit Inquiries – How They Affect Your Credit Score

One of the most common questions from potential renters is whether their rental application will affect their credit score. Understanding why a rental application could affect a credit score requires a basic knowledge of credit inquiries. There are two types of credit inquiries (hard and soft) which can occur when credit is accessed. “Hard” Inquiries – These occur when you apply for credit or other services. A few examples of applications which will create a “hard” inquiry: auto loan applications mortgage loan applications rental applications credit card applications “Soft” Inquiries – These occur when your credit is pulled without the intention of extending new credit or being considered for a lending decision A few examples of when a “soft” inquiry is created: Pulling your credit yourself Credit accessed for employment purposes Credit accessed for insurance purposes Pre-screened offers of credit Based on what we learned above about credit scores, it... View Article

April 27, 2016 10:37 am

Juvenile Records & the Washington Fair Credit Reporting Act

Washington law prohibits reporting (by consumer reporting agencies) of juvenile records when the subject of the report reaches their 21st birthday. RCW 19.182.040 Consumer report—Prohibited information—Exceptions. (1) Except as authorized under subsection (2) of this section, no consumer reporting agency may make a consumer report containing any of the following items of information: (f) Juvenile records, as defined in *RCW 13.50.010(1)(c), when the subject of the records is twenty-one years of age or older at the time of the report. Ironically, while we (as a consumer reporting agency) are prohibited from reporting juvenile records (notwithstanding the nature and timing of the offense), there is nothing that would prohibit you as a landlord from accessing the information directly. Discussion Most of us rely on our tenant screening company for criminal records data.  The question is whether it makes sense to search the public record yourself – to access the occasional juvenile record.  We think not.  Here’s why: 1.  The information... View Article

April 12, 2016 1:53 pm

Tenant Screening & Criminal Records – The Bottom Line

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charged with enforcement of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Act (Act).  HUD has long held that the Act prohibits practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect (or more commonly, a disparate impact) on protected individuals, regardless of intent.  See previous post – HUD Discriminatory Effects Standard & Tenant Screening. HUD’s Office of General Counsel recently updated their “Guidance” on the topic – creating quite a stir in the process.  The language used is more aggressive than we’ve seen and may or may not stand the test of time. The Guidance asserts, correctly in our view, that use of criminal records for tenant screening purposes has a disparate impact on certain protected groups (based on race and national origin) and that doing so may form the basis of a Fair Housing Act (FHA) claim. We’ve written and spoken on this... View Article

April 5, 2016 2:24 pm

WA State Accepts Reusable (Portable) Tenant Screening Reports

The Washington State legislature has taken another small but meaningful step to encourage greater transparency in consumer reporting, and to reduce the burden associated with multiple screening fees borne primarily by low income individuals and families. It was only a few years ago that landlord interests and advocates came together to pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act – modifying RCW 59.18.257 to require (among other things) that landlords notify prospective tenants of what information will be accessed and what factors will result in denial of an application. Senate Bill 6413, passed unanimously by both chambers and signed by Governor Inslee, is impressive if for no other reason than it is the second time in the last few years when landlords and advocates actually came together (compromised) to make progress on this issue. What exactly is Senate Bill 6413? Requires landlords to say up front whether they accept  a comprehensive reusable (aka portable) tenant screening report – which is clearly defined in the bill.... View Article

March 15, 2016 1:01 pm

Tenant Screening 101 – “The Humble Application”

Thus far in our Tenant Screening 101 series, we’ve discussed… The importance of tenant screening Consumer reporting law (notably the Fair Credit Reporting Act) The elements of a comprehensive tenant screening report The importance of accuracy Screening prospective tenants on a first-come, first serve basis Now we focus on process, which begins with the application to rent. There is, of course, the traditional paper application – often a multi-part form ($$) – and there is the online equivalent.  The same rules (or best practices) apply. There is a tendency to discount information found in the application – since the source is the applicant themselves.  While there is merit to that view, we are struck by the candor of most – motivated perhaps by the knowledge that falsification will result in denial or termination of tenancy – and that the obligatory background check will be both thorough and accurate. Either way, the application is one of several... View Article

February 1, 2016 9:04 am

Tenant Screening – Criminal Records, A Barrier to Re-entry?

Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle recently formed an 18 member task force to explore and develop proposals to reduce barriers to housing faced by those with criminal records. I represent Moco Incorporated.  We are a Seattle-based consumer reporting agency specializing in tenant background checks.  We asked repeatedly to be granted a seat at the table.  Those requests were denied. My purpose here is to share the perspective of someone with considerable knowledge of the tenant screening space, hoping to bring some balance to the conversation. The Problem A study by VA New England (Homelessness in the state and federal prison system population) found that recent homelessness is 4-6 times greater among state and federal prison inmates than the general population.  A reasonable interpretation of the data is that the relationship between homelessness and criminal behavior is to a degree causal – that reducing barriers to housing (and homelessness) will have a favorable impact on recidivism. Complicating the search... View Article

January 19, 2016 3:24 pm

Tenant Screening 101 – “To Screen or Not to Screen”

This is the first in a series of posts focused on the fundamentals of tenant screening – information and advice for those who are new to residential property management, and those who have paid a price for what they didn’t know. “To Screen or Not to Screening” We are busy.  We (some of us, anyway) have an inflated sense of our ability to “read people”.  We  operate for years without a problem – reinforcing this flawed notion. Then it happens.  A serial evictee with a nice personality stops paying rent.  There is damage to the home.  Neighbors complain or move out. You come to your senses.  You issue notice.  You ask the resident to leave.  They blow you off.  You hire an attorney who files an unlawful detainer action with the courts.  Time passes.  The tenant moves out and the case is dismissed – since there is no hope of recovery.  Ouch! And then it dawns... View Article

December 30, 2015 7:38 pm

Tenant Screening 101 – Rental Criteria

There has never been a more hostile legal and regulatory environment for landlords and tenant screening companies.  It is more important than ever, therefore, that we know what we are doing – that we take the proverbial high-road in our effort to strike a balance between carefully underwriting prospective tenants and minimizing the risk of legal and regulatory problems. Step 1 is to take the time necessary to develop, refine and formalize your rental criteria.  “How to Develop Landlord Rental Criteria” addresses the steps necessary to develop your criteria and the benefits associated with a consistent application of those criteria as part of the tenant screening process.  A Criteria Worksheet (including sample criteria document) is available at no charge under Landlord Resources on®. A critical step in developing criteria is deciding what is acceptable in terms of credit, rental history, criminal and eviction history, length of employment and income... View Article