NCRA Believe Proposed Washington State Tenant Screening Laws May Violate FCRA

There have been reports of some consumers who have experienced delays in obtaining rental housing due to the costs associated with consumer reports obtained by property managers to qualify the consumer’s tenancy. The state of Washington’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA), which regulates the relationship between landlords and tenants, acknowledges that screening reports are an important part of this relationship. Further, the Washington State Legislature has “…found and declares comprehensive tenant screening reports are a necessary and fair solution for both applicants and landlords. Despite the importance of these documents to all parties, legislation now pending H.B. 2537 would both lower accuracy and increase the potential for fraud in these documents, exposing both landlords and the prospective tenants to incorrect housing decisions. Furthermore, the legislation may violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The good intentions of this bill must be carefully evaluated alongside the actual risk associated with the concept of a 30-day portable consumer report. Consumer reports are designed to allow landlords and creditors of all types to have the latest information for making informed lending and rental decisions. At the heart of the FCRA is the requirement that consumer reporting agencies use “reasonable procedures for maximum possible accuracy in producing consumer credit reports.” Poor decisions made as a result of inaccurate or outdated information can cause a host of problems for everyone connected to the transaction. While the proposed legislation correctly states that the data is “largely the same,” that standard falls short of the standard set in the FCRA.

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