HUD Issues Guidance to Curb Potentially Discriminatory Tenant Screening Practices by Third-Party Companies and Housing Providers

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) issued guidance on May 2 aimed at protecting rental housing applicants from discriminatory tenant screening practices that could violate the “Fair Housing Act” (FHA). NLIHC joined partner organizations in commending the new guidance in a joint press release.

Landlords and housing providers almost always perform some type of screening process for potential tenants, often involving a screening report that includes information on an applicant’s conviction history, eviction records, and credit history. These reports are usually generated by third-party screening companies – sometimes with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) – and provide the landlord with a score or recommendation for leasing to the tenant.

Research shows that the use of AI can worsen discriminatory practices because of racial disparities in the data used to generate AI algorithms. Moreover, these reports often contain inaccurate, outdated, or misleading information that can create unnecessary barriers to housing access.

“FHEO’s guidance clarifying tenant screening practices must abide by the Fair Housing Act is another important step forward in the Administration’s work advancing tenant rights,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in the joint press release. “The power imbalance between renters and landlords is exacerbated by the unscrupulous practices of tenant screening companies. FHEO’s guidance provides needed clarification for fair housing advocates, housing providers, and tenant screening companies alike to ensure more equitable access to housing for all.”

The guidance clarifies that housing providers and tenant screening companies are expected to abide by the provisions of the FHA and provides clear guidelines that providers and companies should follow in order to ensure their screening practices are fair and equitable. The guidance notes providers should only screen applicants for information that is relevant to predicting whether they would be a good tenant and that they should allow applicants to dispute any inaccurate information. The guidance also states screenings should only include accurate records and that companies and landlords should make their screening policies publicly and readily available to applicants.

Read FHEO’s guidance.

View HUD’s press release for the guidance.

Read the joint press release issued by NLIHC and our partners at the National Consumer Law Center, National Housing Law Project, PolicyLink, and UpTurn.