There is a great
deal of discussion in the rental housing industry regarding the pros and cons of
"portable" tenant screening reports - a single tenant credit check,
for example, made
available to multiple prospective landlords. Tenant advocates like the
idea and have long sought a portability mandate - legislation to require
landlords to accept such reports. The appeal (to advocates) is that low
income and other hard to place applicants often pay multiple tenant screening
fees before finding a landlord who will accept them – a hardship they can
mandate, in theory at least, solves this problem by making it possible for
applicants to pay for a single tenant screening report and use it with multiple
landlords. But there are problems with this approach.
First of all,
landlords, as a group, are strongly opposed to a portability mandate – even
those willing to accept such reports! Their concern is that they will be
required to accept reports from tenant screening services they do not know or
trust - tenant screening companies that vary dramatically in their methods and
screening reports that vary equally dramatically in content and quality.
Then, of course, there is the question of authenticity.
One answer proposed by advocates to address the
authenticity concern is to require tenant screening companies to deliver
reports directly to additional landlords when requested by applicants.
But there is a problem with that approach – one that goes beyond the objections of
landlords and obvious cost considerations.
Portability and the
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states that a consumer reporting
agency (e.g. a tenant screening service) may only furnish a consumer report to
“end-users” (landlords for example) for specific “permissible purposes”.
One such purpose is "...a legitimate business need for the information... in
connection with a business transaction that is initiated by the consumer."
An application to rent falls within the scope of this purpose. But the
FCRA goes on to say that "Every consumer reporting agency shall maintain
reasonable procedures designed to avoid violation of [the permissible purpose
requirement]" and further that “Each consumer reporting agency is required to
make a "...reasonable effort to verify the identity [and certify the permissible
purpose] of [each] end-user." In practice this "certification process" is
quite involved, making it impractical (for landlords & the tenant screening
services) to enable delivery of a single (or even occasional) tenant screening
Tenant Screening Reports
A new breed of
tenant screening report – the direct-to-consumer tenant screening report – has
innovated new products, pioneered by Moco Incorporated under the
MyScreeningReport.com® brand, are inherently portable. Applicants have every right under the
FCRA to order screening reports on themselves – including tenant credit
and background checks. It is their data and they can use it as they see fit –
including sharing access with prospective landlords in ways that assure
There is concern by
some in the advocate community, however, that applicants will purchase a
portable tenant screening report only to find that landlords will not accept
them. But in practice,
applicants learn of these products through landlords who will accept
them – either exclusively or optionally. There is no guarantee, of course, that
the landlord will accept the applicant once they review the report. Still, if the applicant is denied, they
have something of value. They walk
away with their own tenant screening report, which they can then review with
others to determine whether they qualify before parting with additional screening
fees (if any)… thereby limiting the number of fees paid to two… certainly better than
the 3-6 fees often sited by advocates.
tenant screening reports – when combined with statutes (in Washington for
example) requiring landlords to advise applicants of their rental criteria up
front – go a long way to minimize the number of screening fees required
of low income and other applicants – substantially weakening the argument
for a portability mandate – a bad idea on many levels. At the same time, these
direct-to-consumer products address the very real need of independent rental
owners for occasional access to quality tenant screening products.
or Moco Incorporated for more information
about these innovative new direct-to-consumer tenant screening products.