Need to Know!

Post Archives

Categories for Tenant Screening

September 12, 2018 1:39 pm

WA State Source of Income Law Effective Sept. 30

  On March 15th, 2018, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2578 – Source of Income Protections. HB 2578 becomes effective on September 30, 2018 and requires that a landlord within the State of Washington accept all sources of verifiable and legal income, including: benefits or subsidy programs housing & public assistance emergency rental assistance veteran & social security benefits student loans supplemental security income or other retirement programs, and other programs administered by any federal, state, local or nonprofit entity. Examples of these types of income may include, but not be limited to: Section 8, Housing Choice, HUD, VASH Vouchers Rapid Rehousing Program HOPWA Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) Shelter Plus Care – TBRA Supportive Housing Program – TBRA HOME – TBRA You may be located in a jurisdiction which already has a local ordinance with income protections.  However, local protections may not be as extensive as those required... View Article

June 7, 2018 11:00 am

Choosing the Right Tenant Screening Company

There are so many different background screening companies to choose from these days. How do you evaluate them to find the best service? How do you know which company is going to provide you with a complete and accurate tenant screening report that will allow you to make an informed leasing decision? Do your research You are providing, or asking your applicant to provide, a third-party company with someone’s consumer information. You should know A LOT about that company. When you come across an ad for a tenant screening company, consider the following: What do you know about this company? Where are they located – the actual location isn’t the issue but rather, do they disclose it? If it is a subsidiary, who is the parent company? Look for an About page that gives you more information about the company and a documented privacy policy. Make sure you ask about... View Article

May 16, 2018 9:55 am

Seattle Faces New Court Challanges

Seattle’s “Fair Chance Housing” ordinance now faces a challenge in court, as two landlord groups filed suit against the City of Seattle over the ordinance on May 1, 2018. The ordinance, which took effect February 19, 2018, prohibits landlords from screening applicants for criminal background information. The Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHAWA) and Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) filed their challenge in King County Superior Court, alleging the law violates due process and free speech constitutional rights. Advocates of the Fair Chance housing ordinance assert the ordinance helps prevent unfair bias against renters with a past criminal record. The City of Seattle maintains the ordinance is constitutional and has announced plans to defend it. The RHAWA also recently sued and won a lawsuit overturning the City of Seattle’s “First in Time” law, which required landlords to accept the first qualified applicant screened. The City of Seattle plans to appeal that... View Article

May 8, 2018 8:49 am

The Adverse Action Process – Are You In Compliance?

You have a great rental property and are looking for a new tenant. You requested a background check on a prospective renter but they don’t meet your rental criteria.  Now that you’ve made the decision to deny a rental application, do you know what your obligations are when communicating that decision to the applicant? Landlords who obtain consumer reports on potential renters are required to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  Part of the FCRA requires landlords to provide notice if an adverse action is taken against an applicant when using consumer reports to make a rental decision. What is an adverse action? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines an adverse action as “any action by a landlord that is unfavorable to the interests of a rental applicant or tenant.”[1] Adverse actions don’t just occur when an applicant is denied. Anytime you accept an applicant with conditions, you... View Article

April 18, 2018 9:02 am

New Legislation Enacted Around Credit Freezes

In the wake of numerous recent security breaches, including the substantial Equifax data breach in 2017, several states introduced legislation to make it easier for consumers to protect their credit information.  Two of those states, Idaho and Washington, have now passed new credit consumer protection legislation in 2018. 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. However, it is standard practice for all three bureaus to charge a fee to freeze a credit profile or to lift that security freeze if the applicant wishes to allow access to a lender. Idaho and Washington now have legislation limiting or prohibiting those fees, making credit freezes more affordable to consumers. Governor Butch Otter (Idaho) signed Senate Bill... View Article

April 4, 2018 11:59 am

Seattle First-in-Time Law Overturned by Superior Court

Seattle’s law requiring landlords to accept rental applicants on a “first-come, first-served” basis was ruled unconstitutional. The law, often called the First-in-Time or “FIT” rule, required landlords to establish rental criteria and offer tenancy to the first applicant which met those criteria guidelines. A complaint was filed in March 2017 requesting a permanent injunction forbidding the city from enforcing the rule. King County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Parisien issued a written ruling on March 28, 2018 in favor of the plaintiffs in their suit against the city. Judge Parisien agreed the law violated free speech and property rights clauses of the Washington State Constitution. The City of Seattle is expected to appeal the decision. As Judge Parisien noted in her ruling, aspects of the FIT rule attempted “to codify industry-recommended best practice by requiring landlords to establish screening criteria and offer tenancy to the first applicant meeting them.” Many landlords... View Article

March 29, 2018 1:09 pm

New WA State Legislation: Employers and Ban-the-Box

On March 13, 2018, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the Washington Fair Chance Act (WFCA) .  This legislation is effective June 6, 2018 and will restrict employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal background history before they are deemed “otherwise qualified” for a position. We recommend you take some time to look over the new legislation to evaluate how it may affect your hiring process. This legislation includes “public agencies, private individuals, businesses and corporations, contractors, temporary staffing agencies, training and apprenticeship programs, and job placement, referral, and employment agencies.” Until an applicant is deemed “otherwise qualified” for a position, Washington State employers are prohibited from: Including any question on any application for employment, inquire either orally or in writing, receive information through a criminal history background check, or otherwise obtain information about an applicant’s criminal record Advertising employment openings in a way that excludes people with criminal records... View Article

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