NLIHC submitted a comment on May 30 in response to a Request for Information (RFI) released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The RFI solicits public comments on tenant background screening practices, with a focus on how screenings may shut people out of housing, especially members of historically underserved and marginalized communities.
“Reforms to tenant screening policies and practices are critically needed to ensure everyone has a safe, stable, accessible, and affordable place to call home,” said NLIHC in the comment. “The FTC’s and CFPB’s role in enforcing the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and identifying practices that unjustly prevent consumers from finding and maintaining housing means the agencies can also play an important role in strengthening and enforcing renter protections, particularly as they relate to tenant screening.”
An estimated 90% of landlords use background screening companies to evaluate prospective tenants. These companies use a largely automated process to create reports on prospective tenants, and reports receive little, if any, review before being sent to a landlord or property manager. The data used to generate these reports is often incomplete, inaccurate, and outdated, leading to erroneous reports that can result in a prospective tenant being unjustly denied housing. Prospective tenants do not typically have the chance to correct inaccurate or incomplete information, if they are able to view the report at all.
In the comment, NLIHC urges CFPB and FTC to reign in the unjust practices of tenant screening companies, including by:
- Reaffirming that FCRA applies to companies that sell information for FCRA-covered purposes, including tenant screening.
- Creating and requiring tenant screening companies to follow measures to ensure the accuracy of reports.
- Requiring landlords and property managers to provide a comprehensive, transparent list of screening criteria included in their background check.
- Guaranteeing a prospective tenant the right to review a screening report and correct any inaccurate, misleading, or false information.
- Holding companies found in violation of FCRA requirements accountable for changing their practices.
Additionally, the comment highlights the specific barriers posed by conviction and eviction record screenings. Due to historical and ongoing discrimination in housing, employment, and the criminal-legal system, people of color, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately represented among people with conviction and eviction records; as such, screening policies that impose a blanket denial on people with conviction or eviction records disproportionately impact these groups, raising fair housing concerns.
In addition to submitting its own letter, NLIHC also joined comments submitted by the Partnership for Just Housing, co-run by NLIHC and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, and the Housing Justice Network, organized by the National Housing Law Project.
Read NLIHC’s comment here.