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

June 8, 2016 9:56 am

Limits on Reporting of Eviction Records – Do unto Others

Washington State Senate Bill 6413 (SB 6413) is the product of a rare compromise between landlord and low income housing advocacy groups. SB 6413 does three things.  It requires landlords to state whether they accept “comprehensive re-usable tenant screening reports”, extends from 14 to 21 days the time a landlord has to return deposits, and provides a mechanism for limiting dissemination of eviction records under certain circumstances. What exactly does limiting dissemination mean? It means that a judge can sign a court order that limits the use of eviction records by tenant screening agencies. We are generally opposed to efforts to limit access to the public record. But there are exceptions.  We support limits on dissemination of information regarding victims of domestic violence, for example, information that might threaten the safety of those individuals. So how do we feel about limits on dissemination of eviction record information?  Pretty good, actually!  Here’s why: The statute is reasonably... View Article

June 1, 2016 9:29 am

Clarifying the Credit Score Conundrum

What is a credit score? Credit scores are utilized by credit lenders as one method of determining credit worthiness and risk.  A consumer’s credit profile is evaluated based on a number of factors and assigned a three digit number. Factors which determine a credit score include such things as: Payment history Number of Derogatory accounts Length of established credit history Total number of credit accounts Amount of available credit Number of Hard Inquiries Why do credit scores vary from lender to lender? Multiple scoring models are available to lenders, with each model weighing credit data differently.  The credit score you pull as a consumer from a credit bureau is a general evaluation of your credit. A bank may use a different scoring model to evaluate credit for a loan. In addition, credit data can vary between credit bureaus so even the same scoring model may vary depending on the credit... 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