Need to Know!

May 29, 2015 9:17 pm

Tenant Screening – Importance of Access to Eviction Records

Many in the low income housing advocate community have pushed for legislation to limit access to eviction filings and dismissed case for tenant screening purposes. They argue that the practice is at best unfair and at worst, prejudicial – that many are dismissed due to lack of merit.  That has not been our experience. There is very little that is certain these days.  But one thing we can  count on is self-interest.  Filing merit-less eviction actions is absolutely contrary to the interest of the landlord.  Consider that: Evictions are time consuming! $$ Evictions negatively impact occupancy (rents)! $$$ Evictions are expensive – given legal fees and court costs!  $$$$ In fact, pursuing unlawful detainer actions to a decision is so expensive in time and treasure, that the majority of those filed are dismissed by the landlord when the resident pays or moves out. The risk of an occasional eviction is a fact of life for landlords – a risk of doing business.  We manage that... View Article

May 21, 2015 7:34 pm

The Unscorables – A Challenge for Landlords

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published a document entitled Data Point:  Credit Invisibles.  The purpose of the publication is “…to further the Bureau’s objective of providing an evidence-based perspective on consumer financial markets.” The focus of CFPB publication is that segment of the population with zero, very little or stale credit histories – who the CFPB describes as “credit invisibles” or “unscorables” and who  have great difficulty accessing credit markets. The Problem The challenges faced by credit invisible and unscorable consumers extends beyond access to credit – to other markets – including rental housing – as landlords have become increasingly reliant upon credit scores as part of their tenant screening process.  They do so because there is (presumably) a correlation between low scores and the likelihood of a failure to fulfill the terms of a rental agreement.  They do so as a way to remove subjectivity from the tenant screening process... View Article

April 15, 2015 11:33 pm

Portable Tenant Screening Reports – The Time Has Come!

Portable Tenant Screening Reports Paying multiple tenant screening fees before finding a landlord who will accept them is a significant hardship on low income applicants.  In extreme cases it can result in homelessness. Low income housing advocates have long sought a portable tenant screening report to address the problem – a single report (for a single tenant screening fee) that can be shared with multiple landlords. The Problem Under the traditional tenant screening model the landlord orders a tenant screening report from their tenant screening company.  The tenant screening company returns the report to the landlord.  The landlord decides whether to accept, accept conditionally (e.g. with an increased deposit or cosigner) or decline the applicant – based on their rental criteria.  The traditional model requires prior “certification” of the landlord by the tenant screening company – a costly and time consuming process. Traditional tenant screening reports are not portable – meaning the... View Article

March 18, 2015 12:01 am

Accuracy of Consumer Reporting…What’s the Fuss?!

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has long required that Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA’s) and “furnishers” of consumer data exercise care in collecting, storing, and reselling consumer data. Section 607. Compliance procedures [15 U.S.C. § 1681e] (b) Accuracy of report.—Whenever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates. Section 611. Procedure in case of disputed accuracy [15 U.S.C. § 1681i] (a)(1)(A) In general.— Subject to subsection (f), if the completeness or accuracy of any item of information contained in a consumer’s file at a consumer reporting agency is disputed by the consumer and the consumer notifies the agency directly or indirectly through a reseller of such dispute, the agency shall, free of charge, conduct a reasonable reinvestigation to determine whether the disputed information is inaccurate and record the current... View Article

February 26, 2015 12:10 am

Employment Screening – A Legal & Regulatory Minefield Part 2 – The Beginning!

The hiring decision is obviously important – to employers and prospective employees.  Good decisions are the result of good (complete and accurate) information and a selection process that leads us safely through a legal and regulatory minefield – both of which are addressed in Part 1 of this series.  Part 2 (this post) speaks to the reasons behind the process. The Dilemma “Negligent hiring” is a well-established cause of action.  A quick internet search on key words “negligent hiring” and “criminal background” leaves no doubt. Ironically, steps taken to mitigate the risk of the negligent hiring claim increase the risk of a “disparate impact” discrimination claim – wherein a “facially neutral” business practice – such as use of criminal records for employment screening purposes – is found to have a disproportionate impact on one or more protected groups. “Business necessity” is the only defense against a “disparate impact” claim.  According to the Equal Employment... View Article

February 9, 2015 8:28 pm

Employment Screening – A Legal & Regulatory Minefield – Part 1 – The End!

A failure to thoroughly vet prospective employees can do considerable harm to a business.  Imagine for a moment that an employee commits a serious crime against persons or property and that they did so within the scope of their employment.  Imagine then that there existed a “discoverable propensity” (to commit such acts) and you didn’t even look! Most employers conduct employee background checks these days.  A failure to do so is hard to defend, therefore, should you be faced with a negligent hiring claim.  At the same time, the legal and regulatory environment for employment screening is growing increasingly complex. It is no longer enough to conduct employment background checks.  Those checks must be thorough, accurate and, equally important, “legally compliant” – which can (but doesn’t need to) be overwhelming – due to differences in state law. There is a path to run on, however, that will in most instances deliver the desired... View Article

February 3, 2015 12:01 am

Tenant Screening & Management System Integration

Integrations are inherently appealing – promising to reduce or eliminate duplicate data entry, improve accuracy and control.  Integrating a tenant screening solution with a property management system is no exception. The benefit associated with an integration depends on several factors, however. The type of report – Quick v. Comprehensive; The information required to initiate a (tenant screening) report; The management system itself – types of data accommodated and availability via the integration; and Whether there are alternatives to data entry by site staff. Integrations can be expensive to deploy – in time and in treasure.  So it is important to assess the true benefit.  A good place to start is to compare the data entry burden with and without the integration – the results of which are often surprising. Report Types “Quick Reports” require very little data to initiate – typically name, address, date of birth and SSN – data... View Article

January 13, 2015 5:42 pm

Portable Tenant Screening Reports – A Legislative Solution?

Year after year tenant advocates in the State of Washington push for a change to the RLTA that would require landlords to accept portable tenant screening reports OR not charge to run their own – to reduce the burden of multiple screening fees on low income applicants. Landlords argue that it is unfair to require them to accept reports that do not meet their specific requirements – that do not contain the required data (“elements”), that are compiled using substandard tools and processes (“methodology”), or that do not apply their specific “criteria” (to formulate recommendations). Advocates counter by attempting to define a “comprehensive report” – a report that, in theory, will satisfy the requirements of the majority of landlords.  Sounds good, but as with all things the devil is in the detail. Elements It is possible to define a tenant screening report that includes all the elements required by the... View Article

December 12, 2014 10:25 pm

FCRA Accuracy Requirement & Instant Tenant & Employee Screening Reports

Tenant screening reports typically include a consumer credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus, a civil (eviction) records search and a criminal records search. More comprehensive tenant screening reports may include employment verifications, rental references and  a recommendation based on the landlord’s rental criteria. Tenant screening companies are specialized “Consumer Reporting Agencies” (CRA’s) – as defined (and regulated) by the Fair Credit Reporting Act [15 U.S.C. § 1681e] – commonly referred to as the FCRA. Section 607(b) of the FCRA requires that… “Whenever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.” The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is tasked with enforcement of the FCRA. Much of the focus is on accuracy, of course, since the CFPB recognizes (as Congress did when crafting the FCRA) that the banking system and,... View Article

November 24, 2014 7:33 pm

Use of Eviction Filings for Tenant Screening – A Growing Dilemma

Eviction records search results are an important part of the tenant screening process – since they are “generally” triggered by the tenant’s failure to fulfill the terms of their rental agreement. Failure to pay rent (or pay rent on time) is perhaps the most common reason for an eviction filing.  But violating other provision of the lease may result in an eviction as well. The majority of evictions are settled (dismissed) by the plaintiff (landlord), however, when the defendant (resident) pays or moves out – since the cost (in time and treasure) associated with pursuing the case to judgment is high and the odds of recovery is low.  But here is the rub.  The court record tells us that a filing was dismissed – but not why it was dismissed.   It is possible, therefore, that the case was thrown out by the judge  due to lack of merit or a... View Article