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Renters in America

The Importance of Accurate and Objective Tenant Screening

A troubling trend is occurring in some states that impacts the abilities of tenant screeners to help keep our communities secure.

Living in an apartment building is just like any other neighborhood, except your neighbors are closer. And when you’re closer together, wall-to-wall, your standards for the person next door are bound to be higher.

You want people in the space that will be good residents and respectful neighbors, both as a resident and especially as a property manager. However, a troubling trend is occurring in some states and localities that impacts the abilities of tenant screeners to do their jobs and help keep our living communities secure.

Regardless of the type of housing, tenant screening is crucial for assuring stability for property managers and tenants by encouraging rental affordability as well as public safety. It is a standard practice used across many types of rental properties to help property owners and property managers assess the risks associated with an applicant.

The screening process

Tenant screeners provide a report on prospective residents which includes information on the history of the applicant such as past evictions, criminal history, and credit information. This allows property managers to develop a professional and objective means of evaluating applicants. While in the past, property managers may have relied more heavily on personal recommendations or relationships, now they can make decisions with a fact-based evaluation of applicants.

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Property managers select from components such as financial information, including credit and rental payment history; eviction information; and criminal background information when working with their tenant screening provider to request a tenant screening report on an applicant. This information helps the property manager assess the risk associated with an applicant using objective facts rather than personal connections and potential biases that may negatively impact the ability of certain groups to secure housing.

In order to serve their clients, tenant screeners rely on public records to pull together information for their screening reports. Using identifying information like a full name and date of birth, screeners are able to access the records that are needed to conduct an accurate background screening. However, some states and localities are instituting rules that redact DOB from public records, making background screening more difficult, lengthier, and, in many cases, entirely impossible.

Misguided policy change

As California and Michigan look to move forward with this rule change, other states and localities may follow suit. The Professional Background Screening Association has fought to educate the public and lawmakers about how harmful redacting DOBs would be for the safety of communities and places of employment.

The states are relying on the misguided idea that removing DOBs from public record will help protect privacy. However, DOBs simply do not lead to identity theft. Instead, redacting DOBs will significantly slow down, or halt completely, the tenancy process for both property managers and potential tenants, which is untenable while countless people are looking for housing. This rule will ultimately cause more harm than good.

Fact-based, standardized information in a tenant screening report promotes compliance with fair housing laws and fair decision-making, but it cannot be completed accurately and quickly without DOBs. Tenant screening is important to property managers, but it is also important to communities to preserve public safety, reduce housing turnover, and keep rental prices affordable. To learn more about the redaction of DOBs from court records and how you can make your voice heard, visit this link.

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