Millions of people in the U.S. rent their home. Their landlord could be a small mom-and-pop property owner, a large property management company, a public housing agency, or some other kind of organization. Many of these landlords buy applicants’ credit reports or use tenant screening companies to assist in evaluating prospective tenants. Tenant screening companies are consumer reporting agencies that compile information about the prospective tenant into tenant screening reports (which often disclose any criminal and eviction records in the tenant’s background, along with credit report information). Some tenant screening companies also provide recommendations to landlords about whether to approve a prospective tenant’s application.
The FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau want to better understand how these issues are playing out across the rental housing industry. To learn more, the FTC and CFPB have put out a Request for Information to get comments from members of the public – including tenants, landlords, and tenant screening companies – about their experiences.
The Request for Information covers a wide range of issues, including:
- How landlords decide on their tenant screening criteria, and how that affects prospective tenants
- How landlords use specific kinds of background information (including eviction and housing court records and criminal records), and whether there are additional steps regulators could take to improve that process
- How landlords set application and screening fees and how those fees impact prospective renters
- How tenant screening companies’ recommendation algorithms are designed and how they play a role in whether a prospective renter qualifies for rental housing
The FTC encourages comments from tenants, prospective tenants, tenants’ rights and housing advocacy groups, property managers, landlords, tenant screening companies, and other consumer reporting agencies.
To file a comment, submit it online at www.ftc.gov/tenantscreening. Your comment will be public, so don’t include any confidential or sensitive information. File your comment by May 30, 2023.
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I am unable to get a apartment because an eviction has been put against my name and it's now on my public record which is stopping me from getting an apartment
Dear ftc.gov admin, Your posts are always well-supported by facts and figures.
I've been charged application fees non refundable and am wondering what's going on.
These fees and algorithms should certainly be regulated to ensure a well functioning market. Many businesses engage in loss prevention tactics, but do not charge every customer who walks through the door simply for the opportunity to "be considered". Perhaps one way of dealing with this issue is to require the fee is to make the fee refundable for any case where the applicant has not lied and yet was not selected. Also, there must be a time limit. I have seen instances where the leasing company takes the fee, but does not provide a lease for over a month. This is unreasonable. The fee should be returned if a lease is not provided promptly.
The frustration is that management companies and landlords can charge application fees (sometimes $50 per applicant, and sometimes $100 per applicant) without properly disclosing how many other applicants have already applied. When I was looking for an apartment, there were several times I would apply and pay the application fee, just to be immediately told that the apartment had been given to someone else. It seems unethical to charge someone an application fee when they might be the 100th person to apply for this apartment, since the likelihood that they get it is almost nonexistent. It would be helpful to have some regulation on allowing applicants to apply and pay a fee when the owners/management companies know that there are hundreds of other people who have already applied. Additionally, because this process is so unregulated, it’s almost impossible to recover your money if you have been scammed by a dishonest rental company. Looking for an apartment should not have to be a superhuman feat.
•Regulation needed surround application fees, move-in/out fees, key deposit fees
•Regulation should be considered to prohibit landlords from requiring a probable tenant to sign a disclosure permitting ongoing access to information for investigative reports; landlords want the ability to seek updates as needed without seeking permission for future requests. This should not be allowed. Non-agreement to ongoing access of a tenant's data can result in the application being disqualified.
•regulation needed regarding a landlord's right to retain ALL information collected during the screening process--regardless if the application is approved or denied. Due to identity theft and privacy matters, sensitive data (e.g.: credit reports) should be securely disposed after a set period.
As someone whose credit score deems them unworthy to even be considered for a rental property, and has ultimately had to pay $2100 a month to live in an extended stay hotel, I wish there was a national tenant screening registry where landlords could see who has been waiting to get into housing, but credit worthiness has prevented them.
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