The Tricky Situation that’s About to Envelope Consumer Reporting Agencies By Storm

Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) have always had a complex role in helping tenants find housing and landlords provide a safe and secure environment for their residents but that complexity is about to take a new height. Renter rights have been pushing forward for a long time and subsequently made providing quality resident screening reports even more difficult. The latest in legislative news, however, is about to make it an even more complex situation and CRAs are going to have to be careful balancing their liabilities.

Consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) have always had a complex role in helping tenants find housing and landlords provide a safe and secure environment for their residents but that complexity is about to take a new height. Renter rights have been pushing forward for a long time and subsequently made providing quality resident screening reports even more difficult. The latest in legislative news, however, is about to make it an even more complex situation and CRAs are going to have to be careful balancing their liabilities.

The Catch-22 In Public Record Risk Analysis

You may have heard that both Michigan and California have made large strides to protect consumer privacy as of late, as both states have removed dates of birth from their criminal records. Date of birth is an important piece of information that many consumer reporting agencies rely on to accurately match a record to a particular consumer or applicant. Without this personally identifiable information (PII), matching records accurately becomes more difficult as CRAs are forced to rely more heavily on other matching identifiers.  

The Catch-22 In Public Record Risk Analysis

You may have heard that both Michigan and California have made large strides to protect consumer privacy as of late, as both states have removed dates of birth from their criminal records. Date of birth is an important piece of information that many consumer reporting agencies rely on to accurately match a record to a particular consumer or applicant. Without this personally identifiable information (PII), matching records accurately becomes more difficult as CRAs are forced to rely more heavily on other matching identifiers.  

That alone is bad enough. The CFPB issued an advisory opinion regarding the issue, making it clear that while they know about these new practices, however, they are not issuing any guidance regarding the issue. Instead, the CFPB makes it clear that they do not approve of “name-matching only” in criminal screening, and CRAs that do so can be held accountable legally.

“The Bureau is issuing this advisory opinion to remind consumer reporting agencies that their matching practices must comply with their FCRA obligation to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” under section 607(b), and that the practice of name-only matching in particular is far from sufficient to meet that standard.  Indeed, as illustrated by the foregoing discussion, multiple additional elements beyond names may often be required to meet the FCRA standard of “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy.””

What This Entails for Rental Properties

That alone is bad enough. The CFPB issued an advisory opinion regarding the issue, making it clear that while they know about these new practices, however, they are not issuing any guidance regarding the issue. Instead, the CFPB makes it clear that they do not approve of “name-matching only” in criminal screening, and CRAs that do so can be held accountable legally.

“The Bureau is issuing this advisory opinion to remind consumer reporting agencies that their matching practices must comply with their FCRA obligation to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” under section 607(b), and that the practice of name-only matching in particular is far from sufficient to meet that standard.  Indeed, as illustrated by the foregoing discussion, multiple additional elements beyond names may often be required to meet the FCRA standard of “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy.””

What This Entails for Rental Properties

While every resident screening company identity matches applicants differently, all consumer reporting agencies rely on four key pieces of information. When you’re submitting your applicant’s information for screening, be sure to include full name including the middle name and suffix (if appliable), complete date of birth, social security number, and current and prior addresses. Although Michigan and California are currently removing date of birth from their criminal records, these other matching criteria can help pinpoint your rental applicant’s records.

While every resident screening company identity matches applicants differently, all consumer reporting agencies rely on four key pieces of information. When you’re submitting your applicant’s information for screening, be sure to include full name including the middle name and suffix (if appliable), complete date of birth, social security number, and current and prior addresses. Although Michigan and California are currently removing date of birth from their criminal records, these other matching criteria can help pinpoint your rental applicant’s records.

Above all else, as a fellow resident screening provider, we ask that you be patient with us as we (and the industry) advocate for your right to safer, complete applicant screening.

The Saving Grace of HB 5368

On the bright side, HB 5368 has been proposed in Michigan, which would keep names and dates of birth unredacted for such screening purposes. If passed, it means tenant screening companies, landlords, and property managers alike could breathe a little easier. The bill was last updated on November 4th, when it was referred to the committee.

It is not the only bill we have our eyes on, but as it moves forward and hopefully passes, we will be sure to keep everyone updated.

Above all else, as a fellow resident screening provider, we ask that you be patient with us as we (and the industry) advocate for your right to safer, complete applicant screening.

The Saving Grace of HB 5368

On the bright side, HB 5368 has been proposed in Michigan, which would keep names and dates of birth unredacted for such screening purposes. If passed, it means tenant screening companies, landlords, and property managers alike could breathe a little easier. The bill was last updated on November 4th, when it was referred to the committee.

It is not the only bill we have our eyes on, but as it moves forward and hopefully passes, we will be sure to keep everyone updated.

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Cole Seidner is a copywriter here at the CIC Blog. She holds a degree in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design with a focus in creative nonfiction. Her free time is spent taking pictures of her dogs or reading deep dive analysis on movies that she hasn’t seen.

Comments (1)

  1. jake jones

    Reply

    Leave it to the dam demacrats to screw everything up for everyone. They love to protect all the dam criminals all of the time. That dam Harris, the current vice president, raised money to bail criminals ls out of jail in Minnasota a couple of years ago so they could get back to rioting and burning businesses down..

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