When families and individuals pay for applications for rental housing, they will have the right to know what the screening process seeks, what that screening finds and who reports the findings to potential landlords under the Fair Tenant Screening Act.
(PRWEB) July 30, 2012
Recent actions by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have put the use of criminal histories under the spotlight as they pertain to employment hiring and screening practices. Currently there is considerable debate on the safe and fair use of these documents, and the issue will continue to boil into the foreseeable future.
Criminal histories are utilized in other areas as well, specifically in Tenant Screening. They are but one of a number of public records landlords and property managers utilize in assessing the viability of a potential tenant. Combined with other records, such as evictions and credit reports, background documents provide information that could prove vital to selecting a prospective tenant. These documents greatly assist in creating a safe living environment for new as well as existing tenants.
However, there are two sides to every conversation, especially with Tenant Screening and their use in vetting tenants.
In the state of Washington the issue of tenant screening remains at the forefront. Recent news events have highlighted each side of the topic.
Georgia Ketchmark is a property owner in Clark County, Washington, and currently experiences the perils of a bad tenant.
From The Columbian (June 18, 2012):
"Ketchmark, whose family rents out four properties around the county, recently discovered one of her houses was searched as part of a drug investigation led by the Camas Police Department." http://www.columbian.com/news/2012/jun/18/perils-of-renting-drug-house-rehabilitated-owner-o/
Ketchmark subsequently evicted the tenants but was left with a "legal and physical mess..."
The article indicates that "there was nothing on the tenants' records to indicate they'd participate in illegal activities at the home," but the level and thoroughness is not shared. Tenant checks that utilize criminal histories may have found something that would preclude these tenants from renting in the first place. The physical damage is obvious but there is a perception on this property that the owner will now have to overcome. Currently Ketchmark is completing repairs in order to make the unit livable. Fortunately, the damage was covered by the renters deposit but others have not fared as well.
The upside of conducting a Tenant Check that includes credit, evictions, and criminal histories is that they can go a long way in protecting property, people, and the reputation of a given property. When conducted in an ethical, legal manner, criminal histories, which are public record, provide vital information useful in making an informed, safe decision.
In the Washington Legislation recent actions were taken to clarify tenant screening. On February 27, 2012 the Fair Tenant Screening Act (SB 6315) passed and went into law on June 7, 2012. The purpose of this legislation is to assist renters in understanding their rights and access information gained from the screening process.
From the SenateDemocrats.WA.Gov blog:
"When families and individuals pay for applications for rental housing, they will have the right to know what the screening process seeks, what that screening finds and who reports the findings to potential landlords under the Fair Tenant Screening Act." http://blog.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/frockt/legislature-passes-fair-tenant-screening-act/
The bill's sponsor, Senator David Frockt proclaims:
“This is a real issue for tenants, especially low-income tenants seeking to get into rental housing."
Legislation guidelines within SB 6315 demand that landlords disclose information gathered for reporting purposes, any transgressions that may appear of said reports that could prevent a tenant prospect from gaining rental property, as well as the third-party background screening agency utilized for the tenant check. The applicant will also be allowed the opportunity to correct any inaccurate information.
The legislation of SB 6315 is similar to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA) insomuch as the information now required to be provided to tenants is the same as employment applicants.
The uses of criminal histories in Tenant Screening have significant validity but can be used maliciously by unscrupulous landlords and property managers. The information above highlights that criminal histories could be effective when used in the proper manner. Avoiding a bad tenant and creating a safe environment for existing tenants is paramount. As state agencies and governmental entities continue to struggle with this issue, positive steps are being made. Ultimately the best course of action a landlord or property manager can take is to work through a third-party background screening company that has the knowledge and experience in tenant screening. Understanding the legal ramifications in the use of criminal histories or any public record will protect property owners that rent their apartments or single-family dwellings.
TenantScreeningUSA.com is a full-service tenant background screening company providing services to both landlords and renters. They have the knowledge and understanding of the laws and regulations in the tenant screening industry. For more information go to http://www.tenantscreeningusa.com today.