As of June 9th, 2017, Washington landlords that rely on tenant screening to vet their rental applicants will need to adhere to a new law. Passed on March 29th, Washington’s SB 6413 makes it the property owner’s responsibility to provide notice before performing tenant screening on an applicant. Although the bill makes it clear what language the notice needs to have, alongside other regulations, the application of this bill has been up to debate.
The Residential Landlord-Tenant Act (RLTA) already requires property owners to notify the applicant in writing:
- What types of information will be accessed to conduct the tenant screening
- What criteria may result in the denial of the application
- The name and address of the consumer reporting agency (if used)
- The prospective tenant’s right to obtain a free copy of the consumer report in the event of an adverse action, and their right to dispute any information on the report.
In addition to this language, SB 6413 requires the following be included as well:
- Whether or not the landlord accepts a “comprehensive reusable tenant screening report”
- Whether the property owner uses an outside screening company to conduct the reports—and if so, the name and consumer contact information for that company needs to be included.
- What types of information will be accessed with the report
- The property owner’s criteria for denial of applications (rather than the rental criteria for acceptance)
- The cost of the tenant screening report to the property owner – which is the maximum to be paid by the applicant
- A summary of rights informing the applicant of their right to obtain a free copy of the report and information on how to dispute the report
Be aware that this same disclosure notice must be repeated on your website, specifically on your homepage. This is especially important if you offer rental applications and tenant screening online.
In terms of application, so far, some landlords have simply added additional language to their authorization for file disclosure. Other property owners, on the other hand, (and this seems to be the most popular method) have created a disclosure on a separate page that requires the applicant give their signature. After signing, these owners provide a copy of the disclosure to the applicant.
Regardless of which method you choose to take, read this bill thoroughly to ensure that all the necessary disclosure language is included. Although providing (or in this case, changing) written disclosures can be time consuming, it ultimately protects you, your property, and your applicants. After all, you wouldn’t want to blindly accept rental applicants with no tenant screening at all.
This article does not constitute as legal advice and you should always consult an attorney before taking action.