Legislation Affecting the Screening of Tenants

The consumer reporting industry, despite what critics, media and the general population may believe, is a highly regulated business. Although this article should not be perceived as legal advice and is certainly not a comprehensive list of new legislation, we will do our best to highlight bills, ordinances and mandates across the U.S. that have recently come to our attention.

The U.S has 50 states; 3,077 counties (including “parishes” & “boroughs”); and roughly 19,355 incorporated cities. If we temporarily set aside the notions of hamlets, villages, towns and other “unincorporated” municipalities, that is a lot of politicians helping us to know what is best for our safety, our ethical fortitude and our businesses.

When a “business” offers a single product from one location, keeping up with the rules and regulations is not a daunting task. However, when your business deals with information garnered from a multitude of sources across any of these thousands of lines, in addition to a customer base that is potentially global, keeping up with the ever evolving legislation enacted to protect us, can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. We’re here to help.

California : Assembly Bill No. 60: Approved by the Governor Oct. 03, 2013. After January 1, 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles will issue driver licenses to individuals who do not provide a social security number on their application, but provide satisfactory proof that their presence in the U.S. is authorized under federal law. The DMV may also issue a license to an individual if they are unable to show proof of legal residence. The applicant may sign an affidavit attesting they are ineligible for a SSN and unable to show proof of legal residence. Bottom line here: California driver license should not be used as proof of residence. For more information; Click Here.

Colorado Marijuana law: Amendment 64 While the new law legalizes the sale and possession of recreational marijuana, it also states that property owners can prohibit “the possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana on or in that property.” For more information regarding a landlord’s rights in relation to Amendment 64; Click Here.

Florida: Effective September 25, 2013 the Landlord Permit ordinance 2013-20-308 has been amended to require landlords in the city of Miami Gardens to provide the City’s Code Compliance Division with; a copy of the lease agreement between the owner and the tenant which includes a provision stating the premises shall remain free and clear of drug and criminal activity; a completed landlord permit application to include the names and birthdates of ALL individuals occupying the unit; and a copy of a national background record(s) on all occupants age 12 and over. The requested information is required annually to obtain a Landlord Permit. Failure to provide the required documents may result in the City issuing a fine in the amount of $250.00 per day until fulfillments are met. To view the notice; Click Here.

CIC’s Opinion: The FCRA and other federal laws likely supersede this ordinance. Landlords in Miami Gardens are recommended to contact their attorney beforehand.

Illinois: HB4778 Nutshell: If this legislation had passed, landlords would have only been able to charge out of pocket expenses for the screening/application fee. Administrative and in-house costs such as staff time to process the application and verify references could not be recouped. Also written in was a disclosure clause for denied applicants, but that is already covered by the FCRA.
CAA and Chicagoland Apartment Association (local NAA affiliate) both opposed this bill as it was written, which meant that if there were some tweaks to the language it might be tolerable. This bill did not pass, however, it is not technically defeated. It is still possible that some of the language in the bill may be inserted into other legislation. To follow the progress of HB4778; Click Here.

Illinois: HB0183 Effective July 9th, 2013; Concealed Carry- Under Illinois’ Firearm Concealed Carry Act, individuals, including your employees and tenants, now have the right to carry concealed firearms, subject to certain limitations.

Rental property owners, along with other businesses, generally have the right to ban weapons on their property and the Act includes several provisions that directly affect landlords, rental property managers, and tenants. More information can be found here.

Maryland: Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014 or “FAMA” (SB212) PASSED March 27, 2014. Gender Identity legislation: Maryland passed gender identity legislation which will affect employment and housing. The legislation is designed to prevent discrimination based on gender identity with regard to public accommodations, housing, and employment. To date, at least 17 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting discrimination based upon gender identity. In addition, over 140 local jurisdictions, including Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, New Orleans, New York City, and Philadelphia, prohibit gender identity discrimination. Click Here

Oklahoma: SB 2089: Would allow civil action to be taken against landlords of multifamily dwellings with more than four families where habitual gang or drug activity occurs. Habitual would be defined as three or more criminal acts involving the arrest of any person engaged in gang or drug activity. This bill was referred to Judiciary March 13th, 2014. Click Here

Oregon: SB91: Tenant Screening and evictions (ORS 90.505 to 90.840) After January 1, 2014, when evaluating a tenant’s application a Landlord may not consider eviction histories if the evictions were dismissed, or resulted in a general judgment for the applicant, submitted before the application is tendered or; the general judgment against the applicant was entered five or more years before the applicant submits the application. Oregon is the first state to implement a 5-year rule about the use of eviction records. A good description of this and other new Oregon laws can be found here.

Washington HB 2537* (SHB2537) The Fair Tenant Screening Act would have allowed for the portability of tenant screening reports. Fair housing advocates claimed that repeated access to costly tenant screening reports extend the time it takes for many low income consumers to obtain housing. This bill would have allowed tenant screening reports to be purchased by a renter via an online tenant screening service and provided access to multiple landlords for a 30 day period. Landlords who wished to use their own tenant screening company would not have been able to charge the consumer for the report during this 30 day period. This bill did not make it out of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing, and Insurance Committee, though they have not given up. We will see this again. For more information; Click Here

Washington HB 1037* Document Recording Fee Bill (ESHB 2368) This is a cost recovery bill that would have opened the opportunity for state agencies to charge public record information collectors new fees as deemed appropriate by the agency for commercial use of the data used to create public record reports with WA state data. Data access in the state of WA would likely drastically increase if this bill were to have passed. This bill did not make it out of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing, and Insurance Committee, though they have not given up. We will see this again. For more information; Click Here.

*Although these Washington bills did not pass, they were included here because they are not technically defeated either. They may potentially be absorbed in future legislation.

About CIC

Founded in 1986, CIC is a leading nationwide provider of data solutions for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), property managers, housing authorities, apartment associations, real estate agents and independent rental owners throughout the U.S. For nearly three decades, CIC has leveraged the use of technology to deliver the most reliable and comprehensive information to clients, and continues to do so, today. By delivering quality affordable data solutions to the multifamily housing industry, CIC is proud to provide clients with applicant information they can trust giving them The Power of Decision. For more information about CIC’s solutions including tenant screening, employment screening, wholesale data, screening platforms and property management tools & software, please visit www.CICReports.com or call 888-316-4242.

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Caryn Bennett

Caryn Bennett is the Director of Compliance with Contemporary Information Corp. In this capacity, Caryn works with landlords, property managers, realtors and business owners to ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations regarding the multifamily screening industry. Caryn also assists consumers who wish to view, update or clarify information on their own consumer report. Caryn is a football (go Steelers!) and hockey (Pittsburgh Penguins) fan and also enjoys hiking, kayaking with her husband.

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