Recently there have been changes throughout the country that can affect the way your business must work with applicants during the rental screening process. If you are affected by any of these changes, be sure your policies are updated, or that you voice your opinion to oppose them before it is too late.
Modified Fair Credit Report Acts – Georgia
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federally approved guide for the use of consumer information during the application process. In addition to federal regulations there can be further provisions required by the state your business is operating in. For instance, Georgia has their own “mini” FCRA that took effect on July 1st, 2015 which applies to all consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) that conduct business in that state.
Any business that is primarily conducted in the state of Georgia requires that the CRA performing the background checks adheres to additional provisions within the FCRA. Namely, anytime public information is reported the consumer must be notified immediately of whom such information is being reported to. As an alternative to this, the CRA may also maintain strict procedures designed to ensure that whenever public record information (which is likely to have an adverse effect on a consumer’s ability to obtain employment is reported) is completely up to date.
Limitations on Charging Application Fees – New Jersey
New Jersey has introduced a new bill (AB 4596) which would prohibit property managers from charging a prospective tenant for the credit and background check unless the vacancy is available within 30 days. It does not seek to prohibit processing the background check prior to the 30 day rule, but the associated cost must be covered by the lessor.
Restrictions on Date of Birth – Rhode Island, Iowa, Idaho
Rhode Island and Iowa are pursuing actions to consider an applicant’s age to be sensitive information and taking measures to limit its use. Screening companies rely on the date of birth for matching of criminal records in addition to the credit report when there is a Jr/Sr situation.
In Rhode Island the Commission for Human Rights has interpreted the state’s Fair Housing Act to mean that inquiring about age is a violation of the applicant’s rights. They are moving to prohibit leasing agents from inquiring about the date of birth on the application, although the information will still be available once the credit report is returned. This is one of several interpretations, so we encourage you to seek legal council before making a business decision about modifying your application.
The Iowa courts have made an administrative decision to no longer provide the date of birth on public records. Criminal records already do not contain social security numbers which means researching the criminal background of an applicant must be done using their name only. This change is guaranteed to result in an increase of false positives due to common names, and property managers who aren’t looking closely will end up liable to applicants they denied unfairly based on inaccurate information.
The Idaho courts will soon follow Iowa in redacting date of birth.
While the information contained in this article is state specific, make no mistake that they can easily spill over to affect others. Oftentimes if a state finds approval to make a change other states are more likely to adopt the same, or a similar, policy. Be sure to remain vigilant in knowing what your state might be proposing because it may negatively impact your business.
CIC’s active participation in the NCRA and NAPBS’s government relations committee reflects their passion to represent and lobby for the rights of the multi-family industry. Subscribe to the Resident Screening Blog to stay up to date with current legislation.