Washington law prohibits reporting (by consumer reporting agencies) of juvenile records when the subject of the report reaches their 21st birthday.
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.
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 available on the Washington Courts website is limited and does not include dispositions.
2. You must contact the court directly for the complete record.
3. Doing so is impractical for most – given the time and training required to do so.
It makes far more sense to concentrate on the thoroughness and accuracy of the information you do receive from your tenant screening company. It is far more important, for example, that your tenant screening company search AKA’s and additional addresses (disclosed and undisclosed) than to worry about the occasional juvenile record. We know that relatively few tenant screening companies do so (automatically or without additional charge). We also know that roughly one third of the records we do return are the result of these additional (conditional) searches.
Juvenile Records & HUD’s Discriminatory Effects Standard
HUD has begun to assert itself around its discriminatory effects standard. It is generally agreed that use of criminal records for tenant screening purposes has a disparate impact on protected groups. Indiscriminate use of criminal records – without regard to the nature of the offense and when it occurred puts us at greater risk of a fair housing claim. There is little doubt in my mind that use of juvenile records adds to that exposure.
1. Confirm that your tenant screening company is performing the most thorough and accurate criminal searches possible – that they are searching AKA’s and additional addresses, including those found on the credit report.
2. Confirm that your tenant screening company is confirming all records returned – that there are no false-positives.
3. Confirm that your tenant screening company is playing by the rules – excluding content prohibited by state and federal consumer reporting law (the FCRA). The last thing you need is to have to defend the presence of data you do not use.