TenantScreeningUSA.com Advocates First-Time Landlords Partner with Third-Party Tenant Screening Firms to Ensure Compliance with Recent EEOC and FTC Joint Guidance

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On March 10, 2014 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Jointly released a new Guidance clarifying the legal and lawful use of utilizing public records as part of a background screening process. Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states: “I urge all first-time landlords work with a third-party screening company to remain compliant with the demands of the new Joint Guidance, as well as the laws governing tenant screening, specifically in regards to potential discrimination that could arise from misuse of public records.”

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Laws governing the use of public records are rapidly changing and a new landlord should work with a third-party tenant screening company in order to understand those laws as well as maintain compliance within the law.

The use of public records in background screening is increasingly under the scrutiny of various public agencies. In April 2012 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its initial Guidance which specifically spoke to the use of criminal histories, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as other public records, and the potential of discrimination due to the misuse or misinterpretation of these documents. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm

Recently the EEOC, jointly with the FTC, released an updated guidance document outlining the rights of employees and employers in the use of public documents utilized in pre-employment vetting. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/3-10-14.cfm

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states: “The Joint Guidance shows that the federal government is scrutinizing the use of public records in employment background screening and, ultimately, all screening.”

The Joint Guidance is designed to show what employers can and cannot do, as well as what potential employees can expect during the vetting process and the dissemination of public information. But a central theme of the Joint Guidance is the elimination of potential discrimination through the improper use or misuse of public records.

From the EEOC/FTC Joint Guidance (Mar. 10, 14):
It's illegal to check the background of applicants and employees when that decision is based on a person's race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information (including family medical history), or age (40 or older). For example, asking only people of a certain race about their financial histories or criminal records is evidence of discrimination. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/background_checks_employers.cfm

Almeida states: “The use of criminal histories, a key public record, is at the core of the both the recent Joint Guidance as well as the Guidance from 2012. How these documents are allowed to be used continues to evolve. While the initial government action focuses on employment screening, this action will affect the use of public records in all background checks, including tenant background checks.”

With the housing market at a crossroads, more and more home owners are holding on to existing houses and renting them out rather than selling them.

From the Los Angeles Times (Apr. 05, 14):
Buyers who bought at the bottom of the market in 2009 got a bargain. Then came years of opportunity to refinance into record-low interest rates. That means many owners can rent out their home for more than it costs them each month, even with taxes and other ownership costs figured in. LA TIMES - First Time Landlords April 5, 2014 (http://articles.latimes.com/2014/apr/05/business/la-fi-first-time-landlords-20140405)

Almeida states: “For many the idea of renting a home appears a simple task but the growing complexity over the use of public records will expose the uninformed to potential legal action.”

A specific point from the Joint Guidance that highlights this risk states:
Any background information you receive from any source must not be used to discriminate in violation of federal law. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/background_checks_employers.cfm

The opportunity to rent out an existing property remains tempting. As housing costs stay low and rental income high, temptation will remain to become a first-time landlord. Almeida states: "The complexities of using public records in any background screening situation demand that as a first-time landlord one must partner with a third-party tenant screening company to assist with compliancy. As shown by the recent EEOC/FTC Joint Guidance, the government continues to place greater scrutiny on the legal and lawful use of public records for background screening of any type, including tenant."

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company with an experienced staff highly trained in all aspects of tenant screening, including laws and regulations governing the use of public records. With programs designed specifically for first-time and/or small unit landlords and property managers, TenantScreeningUSA.com can provide all the tenant screening tools required for a successful and enjoyable experience.

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