“Property managers who use eviction records in the application screening process are discriminating against their applicants!”
This, according to a Fair Housing presentation last month in Tacoma, Washington, during which the most prevalent point made, was that a higher percentage of minorities have prior evictions and therefore, referencing eviction records in the approval criteria may lead to discrimination.
The use of eviction records is meant to be an objective method of qualifying an applicant as a good candidate for a property because, as we all know, using subjective information in the rental decision opens the door to fair housing violations such as discrimination allegations. What needs to be kept in focus is a balance between protecting your property, your current tenants and staff, and the applicants themselves.
The purpose of eviction records is not to discriminate against any particular protected class of people, but to protect your property against individuals who show a factual history of not meeting their prior lease agreements. When requesting an eviction search, it is vital to keep these key factors in mind before making a rental decision:
- The date of the judgment: Per the FCRA, §605 – civil suits, civil judgments, and records cannot be taken into account in the rental decision if they are older than 7 years or until the governing statute of limitations has expired. Whichever period is longer.
- The number of records returned: A single offense may be the case of circumstance and should be reviewed while a consistent list of offenses may point to a much larger problem.
- The information contained in the record: Any system that returns instant results has the potential for error. Verify that what you receive matches other information provided by your applicant or other areas of their tenant screening report. If you are not 100% certain, consult the agency that provided the information and ask for additional research.
Following these guidelines when pre-qualifying a person to live in your community can be essential to protecting all parties involved. It is illegal to disqualify an applicant based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status, which is why processes that are blind to these factors were established in the first place. Eviction reporting is a fact based system to provide fair and equal housing to people of all backgrounds while still protecting you and your community.