Skip to main content

When people are looking to rent a house or apartment, the most important “screening” isn’t on the windows of the prospective new place. It’s the tenant background screening that goes on behind the scenes, the results of which can make the difference between home sweet home and homeless.

The FTC announced a record-setting $3 million settlement with Texas-based RealPage, Inc., a consumer reporting agency (CRA) that offers tenant background screening services. According to the complaint, the company violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act’s requirement that CRAs follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy. The FTC alleges that the company’s failure to honor that key FCRA provision caused major problems for consumers unfortunate enough to have names or birthdates similar to people with criminal records.

RealPage furnishes background reports on prospective tenants to landlords and property management companies across the country. Among other things, the reports typically included applicants’ rental or eviction histories, credit data from the three major CRAs, and information about their criminal records.

Of course, lots of people have similar names, birthdates, etc. That’s one reason why Section 607(b) of the FCRA requires that “whenever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report it shall follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the individual about whom the report relates.” The FTC alleges that RealPage’s automated system used to “match” housing applicants with criminal record data stored in RealPage’s databases or in public records led to the reporting of inaccurate information to landlords, including false statements that prospective tenants had criminal records.

In determining if a prospective tenant “matched” a person with a criminal record, RealPage’s criteria required an exact match on the applicant’s last name only. During the time alleged in the complaint, RealPage used a “soft” – or non-exact – match for first name, middle name, and date of birth. You’ll want to read the complaint for details, but here are just a few examples:

  • If the first three letters of the first name match or if there is a phonetic match, RealPage would report a criminal record match. For example, an Anthony Jones born on 10/15/67 would match to Antony Jones, Antonio Jones, or Antoinette Jones born on the same day.
  • If date of birth and last names match, RealPage would report a criminal record match for the first letter of a first name. For example, an Anthony Jones born on 10/15/67 would match to A. Jones born on the same day.
  • If there was an exact match on the first name and last name, and the middle name either matched or was blank, RealPage reported a criminal record match when the date of birth was a year apart. For example, an Anthony Jones born on 10/15/67 would match to Anthony Jones born on 10/15/68.

According to the FTC, for the time alleged in the complaint, RealPage had insufficient procedures in place to narrow the results generated by its broad matching criteria, even for consumers with common names. The company applied only limited filters to those broad results and didn’t check for accuracy. The upshot for people trying to rent a house or apartment is that RealPage provided erroneous information to landlords or property managers that applicants had criminal records or, in some instances, were on sex offender registries.

The $3 million civil penalty is the largest ever for an FTC case against a background screening company. The settlement also mandates that RealPage honor the FCRA provision that companies have “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy.”

Visit the BCP Business Center for resources on complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, including the text of the revised law.

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

October 17, 2018
stephen nichol…
November 18, 2018
i worked at the one in dunn nc and they didnt treat me right at all i got fired for no reason
March 09, 2020
Real Page needs to be dissolved. They offer no benefit to the public. They cant even verify a dispute and they are using tax dollars in govt contracts. This company makes innocent people homeless. Who is responsible for their compliance with the settlement agreement? Why are there no funds for the actual victims?
FTC Staff
March 12, 2020

In reply to by Guest

You can tell the FTC about a problem with a company. Go to The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

April 08, 2020

In reply to by FTC Staff

I did contact you about RealPage and I got an auto letter about mortgages? I am not sure who is worse at this point. Where did the $3 million go and why was it not given to victims? Which department is handling oversite and dispute verifications? Very evil company - who gave them permission to sell our data and fling it around 3rd world countries? Making billions and billions off of data and ruining innocent peoples lives. They get a little slap. and victims got nothing. You might want to check the lawsuits since the setttlement. They have not changed and some of their new products should raise red flags. They even lost 10 million of their landlord clients money some sort hack. They need to be dissolved and victims compensated....jail for Winn? I would be in jaiil for far less than what they do. Monopoly and woven into govt... shame
Renee Dahl
July 21, 2020

In reply to by Guest

I have been in dispute with realpage/leasing desk for reporting false criminal information on my history report. They refuse to take it off of my record even with certified documents proving the information is incorrect. I filed a complaint with CFPB who said they forwarded my complaint to FTC. I have reached out to FTC and have not heard back. Didn't they just get sued for doing what I am being victim of? I thought that CFPB and FTC were who the consumer went to for help in enforcing the laws of consumer reporting.

Get Business Blog updates