Consumer credit reports are commonly used as a method for evaluating rental applications. Complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is an important responsibility as a landlord and is not one that should be taken lightly. At VerticalRent, this is a responsibility that we also take very seriously. As a tenant screening service, we are regulated by the FCRA and are committed to 100% compliance.
The goal of the FCRA is to protect the privacy of consumer information and to ensure that the information supplied by agencies such as VerticalRent is as accurate as possible. Consumer reports contain a wealth of information regarding an applicant's character, credit characteristics, lifestyle, and general reputation. Such a report may also contain information regarding the applicant's previous rental history. Reports that are covered by the FCRA must be prepared by a Consumer Reporting Agency.
Landlords who deny a rental based on information contained within a consumer report are required by the FCRA to provide the applicant with a letter known as an adverse action notice. The adverse action notice is required to include the name as well as the address and telephone number of the agency that supplied the information in the report. In addition, the notice is required to contain a statement that the agency that supplied the report did not make the final decision regarding the adverse action. Finally, the letter must contain a notice regarding the applicant's right to dispute the completeness or accuracy of the information provided by the agency as well as the right of the individual to obtain a report from the agency free of charge within 60 days. This type of information disclosure is imperative in the event of an error.
Under the FCRA, we also have a number of obligations. Among the most important of those responsibilities is to establish the identity of each user on our platform. This includes both landlords as well as tenants. In addition, we are also responsible for identifying the purpose for which any information on our site is sought prior to providing a screening report. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to ensure that the information we provide regarding the individual named in a report is as accurate as possible.
The FCRA also requires that we disclose to consumers in an accurate and clear manner all information contained in an individual's file upon request. We may face regulatory action if we fail to disclose this information in the manner required.
The verification fee that we charge at VerticalRent actually offers protection for both landlords and tenants by establishing the identity of everyone that uses our platform. As part of our commitment to performing due diligence, VerticalRent also scrubs every criminal and eviction report prior to releasing it to our end users or landlords.
While this is certainly not intended to be construed as legal advice by any means, we are completely committed to FCRA compliance and educating our users about the importance of Consumer Reporting Agency responsibilities.
Disclaimer: The common sense tips in this blog entry should not be construed as legal advice. These are guidelines that will help you as a landlord, property manager, or tenant screening provider. Local laws and regulations may differ in your area. Be sure to consult with an attorney before rejecting an applicant and ensure you are following fair housing laws.