How Tenant Screening Changed In 2017



One of the most important things that property owners and landlords can do to prevent problems with renters is to conduct a thorough tenant screening. The best tenant screening reports cover areas like criminal record, eviction history and credit score. Without it, landlords increase their risk of dealing with tenants that have a history of unpaid rent, costly damages and evictions.

However, there were two major changes in 2017 that affected the way that landlords get information from tenant screening efforts.

National Consumer Assistance Plan

The National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP) is a joint venture between the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. The plan stems from a settlement in 2015 between more than 30 state attorneys general and the three major credit bureaus.

The goal of NCAP is to boost the accuracy of the information on the credit report, among other things. One of the ways they plan to do this is by decreasing the reporting of such public records such as tax liens, parking tickets and civil judgments. So how does this affect landlords?

The new reporting changes are especially critical for landlords because evictions are civil judgments and as of July 1, 2017, they disappeared from credit reports of any prospective tenants. If tenant screening companies provide landlords with just a credit report as part of an applicant’s background check, the landlord will have no insight into that person’s rental history.

Landlords need to check with their tenant screening service to ensure that they are now using an alternative source to discover any eviction judgments on an applicant. There are several national companies that do provide information on forcible detainer and unlawful detainer judgements for tenant screening companies. It’s now the only way that landlords can get information on prior evictions.

Because of the extra cost involved in using a national eviction search, many tenant screening companies are increasing their fees and passing the cost on to their clients. Landlords may have to charge more for their application fees (if allowable in their state) to cover their own costs.

Any landlord that wants a thorough background check on an applicant must ensure that the tenant screening service they now use includes this separate eviction search.

Equifax Breach

One of the country’s largest credit reporting companies experienced a data breach that compromised information for more than 145 million customers. The company experienced unauthorized access to data from May through June and key identity information was accessed, including names, birthdays, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and more.

Because of the massive potential for identity theft, many consumers placed a freeze on their credit report. With a freeze, potential creditors are unable to access someone’s report without the consumer removing it temporarily. This prevents anyone from opening a line of credit with that information, including identity thieves. However, it also prevents landlords from accessing the info they need to get a complete picture of their applicants.

Landlords need to be aware that identity theft and fraud will be on the rise as a result of the data breach, affecting innocent applicants. They should also know that because many people have put a freeze on their report, their tenant screening company may not be able to access anything without consent.

During the application process, landlords can make things go a little more smoothly with any applicants that have set up a freeze. Many tenants don’t think about unlocking their credit report for a background check on a rental home. Landlords can ask applicants or include a reminder on the application about lifting the freeze temporarily. If the applicant can’t or won’t lift the freeze in a timely manner, landlords may have to move to the next applicant.

Despite the freeze on a credit, landlords should never change their tenant screening practices. When looking for the best tenants, landlords need to get a good idea of what kind of renter an applicant will be. Proper tenant screening will always save landlords time, damages and money. However, in 2017, these two factors just made it a little more difficult for landlords and tenant screening companies to get the background information they need.

“Eric Worral is an employee at RentPrep.com which is a tenant screening service for landlords and property managers. He’s been a landlord since 2008 and writes tips on ways to better screen tenants and manage rental properties.”

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