What The Scary New Tenant Screening Restrictions Mean for Landlords Across the Country

What The Scary New Tenant Screening Restrictions Mean for Landlords Across the Country

SHARE:

There have been some worrisome changes throughout the rental housing industry as of late. Most recently, both Michigan and California have introduced bills that would ban or restrict the use of date of birth in tenant screening. The information would be redacted from public records, which would severely damage the ability to ensure a landlord is screening the right person or has the correct information. This may be a growing trend among laws throughout the United States, as we have watched more and more states come up with tenant protection laws that impact how landlords do their work. But without tenant screening, what would be the alternative?

Why Is This Happening?

Many tenant’s rights activists have begun to adopt a similar ideal: tenant screening is bad and dangerous. Therefore, it should be restricted as much as possible! You can see this evidenced across the country. New York City banned eviction records, Cook County banned criminal records, and almost every state has some sort of COVID-19 restriction in place. Maybe law makers don’t believe tenant screening in and of itself is evil, but they most certainly believe restricting screening is a popular move with voters.

There have been some worrisome changes throughout the rental housing industry as of late. Most recently, both Michigan and California have introduced bills that would ban or restrict the use of date of birth in tenant screening. The information would be redacted from public records, which would severely damage the ability to ensure a landlord is screening the right person or has the correct information. This may be a growing trend among laws throughout the United States, as we have watched more and more states come up with tenant protection laws that impact how landlords do their work. But without tenant screening, what would be the alternative?

Why Is This Happening?

Many tenant’s rights activists have begun to adopt a similar ideal: tenant screening is bad and dangerous. Therefore, it should be restricted as much as possible! You can see this evidenced across the country. New York City banned eviction records, Cook County banned criminal records, and almost every state has some sort of COVID-19 restriction in place. Maybe law makers don’t believe tenant screening in and of itself is evil, but they most certainly believe restricting screening is a popular move with voters.

More and more places are stating that tenant screening laws have an imbalanced affect on applicants. Specifically, they find that it affects people of color more often than not. In Philadelphia, the Renter’s Access Act – a bill that bans landlords from denying applicants based on credit score, COVID-19 related failures to pay bills, or evictions older than two years – is believed to mostly help African American women in the community.

“[Rasheedah] Phillips also sees this as a bill in particular helping Black women since that demographic has a disproportionate impact when it comes to evictions and the pandemic has only exacerbated that.”

More and more places are stating that tenant screening laws have an imbalanced affect on applicants. Specifically, they find that it affects people of color more often than not. In Philadelphia, the Renter’s Access Act – a bill that bans landlords from denying applicants based on credit score, COVID-19 related failures to pay bills, or evictions older than two years – is believed to mostly help African American women in the community.

“[Rasheedah] Phillips also sees this as a bill in particular helping Black women since that demographic has a disproportionate impact when it comes to evictions and the pandemic has only exacerbated that.”

The goal of many of these screening restriction laws is, because of this, to aid social progress. By making tighter laws, many legislatures claim they are working with the times and protecting those who have been long disadvantaged. More often than not, this is a popular move among voters, particularly those in population-dense cities.

What Does This Mean For Landlords?

Despite the noble reasons legislatures may have for limiting tenant screening, they’re undercutting one of the main purposes of it in the first place. Before there were official channels and practices for screening, landlords could only depend on their subjective feelings to decide who they wanted to rent to and who they didn’t. There’s the popular ‘story’ of the landlord who would pick his applicants based on the condition of the car they used to reach the property. If it’s clean, supposedly they’d care well for the property, if not, then they wouldn’t, or so the landlord might say. However, that says nothing about the actual person: they could be a doctor who eats in the car on their way to go save lives, or perhaps they just cleaned it in order to make a good impression but are actually a slob. Before reliable background screening became the gold standard in the industry, all landlords had were these silly little tests based on personal biases and imperfect beliefs. Background screening took those tests and put them to the side, allowing landlords to use objective data instead of subjective gut feelings.

The goal of many of these screening restriction laws is, because of this, to aid social progress. By making tighter laws, many legislatures claim they are working with the times and protecting those who have been long disadvantaged. More often than not, this is a popular move among voters, particularly those in population-dense cities.

What Does This Mean For Landlords?

Despite the noble reasons legislatures may have for limiting tenant screening, they’re undercutting one of the main purposes of it in the first place. Before there were official channels and practices for screening, landlords could only depend on their subjective feelings to decide who they wanted to rent to and who they didn’t. There’s the popular ‘story’ of the landlord who would pick his applicants based on the condition of the car they used to reach the property. If it’s clean, supposedly they’d care well for the property, if not, then they wouldn’t, or so the landlord might say. However, that says nothing about the actual person: they could be a doctor who eats in the car on their way to go save lives, or perhaps they just cleaned it in order to make a good impression but are actually a slob. Before reliable background screening became the gold standard in the industry, all landlords had were these silly little tests based on personal biases and imperfect beliefs. Background screening took those tests and put them to the side, allowing landlords to use objective data instead of subjective gut feelings.

Objectively, they do not have a dangerous criminal history and can be presumed safe. Objectively, they have a good credit score and can be presumed fiscally responsible. Objectively, they have never been evicted, and can be presumed timely in payment.

Objectively, they do not have a dangerous criminal history and can be presumed safe. Objectively, they have a good credit score and can be presumed fiscally responsible. Objectively, they have never been evicted, and can be presumed timely in payment.

If tenant screening restrictions continue to be pushed through, landlords may have no choice but to go back to old ways and depend on subjective guesses and opinions. Strong tenant screening like what ApplyConnect provides not only aids tenants in ensuring a fair shot at a new home, but protects landlords by preventing illegal biases from making decisions, opening them up to lawsuits.

If tenant screening restrictions continue to be pushed through, landlords may have no choice but to go back to old ways and depend on subjective guesses and opinions. Strong tenant screening like what ApplyConnect provides not only aids tenants in ensuring a fair shot at a new home, but protects landlords by preventing illegal biases from making decisions, opening them up to lawsuits.

Subscribe for more news and tips!

* indicates required

Share with your friends!

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share via Email

More Articles from ApplyConnect

Tenant Screening

New California Tenant Screening Bill Was Just Passed into Law – Here’s What It Means for Landlords and Renters

A new year comes with a multitude of new things, and the rental housing industry is no exception. With the passing of California’s Assembly Bill No. 2559, effective January 1st, 2023, an existing consumer report ordered on a prospective tenant by the landlord whose property they’re applying to rent can now be redefined as a reusable tenant screening report. So, what exactly does this mean?
Simply put, an applicant’s report can be reused for the application process within 30 days of purchasing. The furnished report must comply with all state and federal laws pertaining to the use and disclosure of information used in the tenant screening process and must include all specified information as outlined, including, but not limited to: full legal name, verification of employment/income, previous addresses and last known address, the results of a housing record history check (consistent to applicable law), any records that may exist of the applicant’s criminal history, etc.
The benefits of reusable tenant screening reports are not one-sided.
• First and foremost, the acceptance of a reusable tenant screening report by the landlord is entirely optional, and the landlord must be opted in if proceeding with a reusable tenant screening report. Opting in is not a requirement for the tenant screening process.
• Use of a reusable tenant screening report expedites the tenant screening and application process if the applicant is applying to multiple properties and mitigates the expense of the tenant paying multiple fees per property applied for.
• While the initial cost of obtaining the report from a consumer reporting agency is at the request and expense of the applicant, the option for reuse comes at no additional cost to the landlord or applicant, and the landlord is prohibited from charging an application fee to access or view the report.
• The 30-day reuse period allows for the most up-to-date and current information on the applicant if the timeframe is exceeded while the applicant is still applying to properties. This also gives agency and incentive to the applicant to complete the process in a timely manner.
• Reusable tenant screening reports must still contain all prescribed information required for the application, the same as any consumer report ordered for the purposes of renting a property.
• For convenience, reusable tenant screening reports can be ordered and provided through third-party screening providers such as ApplyConnect, which regularly engages in the business of providing a reusable tenant screening report. Doing so will also include propriety parameters each third-party provider includes in their screening process; for instance, shared reports you receive from ApplyConnect will also include ApplyConnect’s SAFE Screen review customized to your address.

While the list of pros is substantial, existing landlords considering proceeding with reusable tenant screening reports may be wondering – “Are there any cons I should be aware of before opting in and accepting a report this way? And what should I be prepared for?”
Like any bill newly signed into law, any inadvertent effects of AB 2559 remain to be seen. For instance, one could ascertain that a byproduct of prohibiting the charge of additional fees by a landlord who traditionally imposes an application/processing fee to cover any additional expenses other than the cost of obtaining the report means forfeiting the landlord’s autonomy to impose such a fee, and that additional cash flow as well. Landlords who opt in will need to amend their screening process to remove said fees.
Section F of the bill also asserts that if an ordinance, resolution, regulation, administrative action, initiative, or other policy adopted by a city, county, or city and county conflicts with this section, the policy that provides greater protections to applicants shall apply. In some cities and counties, these local laws can prohibit rental owners from considering their applicant’s criminal report, even if it’s on a reusable report. Landlords will also have to accept different formats of the report, as not all screening companies were created the same – one might source their data differently than another with different accuracy rates, primarily use FICO instead of VantageScore in credit reporting and vice versa, etc.
As more landlords and property managers accept reusable tenant screening reports, we’ll be able to see more definitively how and if that changes the leasing process in California. While the provisions in AB 2559 are optional now, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for legislation that could aim to make it required.

Read More »
Tenant Screening

Can Your Tenant Legally Own An Alligator As An Emotional Support Animal?

When you think of an emotional support animal, what comes to mind? It would be fair to assume the first thought to enter one’s head would be a dog, if not some kind of bipedal mammal — and most likely not a reptilian carnivore with razor-sharp teeth.

In enters WallyGator: a five-and-a-half foot, 70-pound TikTok famous alligator with over 72,600 followers on the platform owned by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Joie Henney. While it is legal to own alligators in Philadelphia, that isn’t the case in many other states — nor is it likely that the majority of pet gators, if any, qualify as emotional support animals. Or is it?

Since Wally’s uptick in popularity on the internet back in August, “alligators” as a related topic to the Google search query “emotional support animal” has seen a 300% increase in search frequency, most likely for the purposes of curious internet users seeing and reading about WallyGator for themselves. However, with the increase in popularity of keeping various species of reptiles as house pets and the common need for emotional support animals, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that people with legitimate mental health conditions, unique cases of PTSD, or related conditions could be looking into obtaining a support gator of their own.

As we’ve previously covered, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided guidance on how the Fair Housing Act (FHA) interfaces with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regarding emotional support animals. HUD classifies assistance animals into two different categories in order to distinguish their roles from one another: service animals (primarily dogs), and other trained animals that do work, perform tasks, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. Per HUD’s guidelines, because Wally is not a dog, he, therefore, cannot qualify as a service animal – so, how does HUD define Wally and his role, exactly?

HUD states if the service animal status is not readily apparent, to limit inquiries to two questions: “Is the animal required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”, and if the answer to either question is no, then following denial of service animal status under federal, HUD states that the animal can still qualify as a support animal or other assistance animal, depending on what needs to be accommodated.

In Wally’s case, Henney received approval to use him as a support animal after expressing to his doctor he did not want to be medicated for depression following the deaths of several family members and close friends in a short period of time, and more recently, his untimely cancer diagnosis. Even before rescuing and adopting Wally, Henney has worked with and rescued reptiles (particularly alligators) for over thirty years, and his vocation is one he is very passionate about – so it stands to reason his support animal of choice would be one he’s so accustomed to working with.

Because the ADA makes the same distinction that an emotional support animal would only be classified as such due to its mere presence providing comfort as opposed to employing any training to respond to a situation, HUD’s guidelines technically, but clearly grant Wally his status as a legitimate emotional support animal under federal law.

While Wally’s status is protected in the eyes of the law, HUD also states that a housing provider can refuse a reasonable accommodation request for a support or assistance animal if said animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of other which cannot be reduced or eliminated. However, before denying such a request due to a lack of information, a housing provider is encouraged to engage in a “good-faith” conversation with the owner of the support animal to gather information about the animal and mitigate any potential misunderstandings regarding its purpose.

Luckily for most property owners, WallyGator is very much an anomaly, and most folks aren’t scrambling to obtain an emotional support gator of their very own, anyway. Henney himself calls Wally a “very special gator” (he’s trained Wally to understand commands and to keep his mouth closed around other people) and actively discourages others to adopt a pet alligator if they’re not actively predisposed to working with alligators, stating “if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit”.

Check out ApplyConnect’s HUD guidance breakdown: https://www.applyconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Emotional-support-animals_-HUDs-Guidance-cliff-notes-AC-Version.pdf

Read More »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this Article!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More Articles from ApplyConnect

Blog Topics

Click the dropdown

Tenant Screening

New California Tenant Screening Bill Was Just Passed into Law – Here’s What It Means for Landlords and Renters

A new year comes with a multitude of new things, and the rental housing industry is no exception. With the passing of California’s Assembly Bill No. 2559, effective January 1st, 2023, an existing consumer report ordered on a prospective tenant by the landlord whose property they’re applying to rent can now be redefined as a reusable tenant screening report. So, what exactly does this mean?
Simply put, an applicant’s report can be reused for the application process within 30 days of purchasing. The furnished report must comply with all state and federal laws pertaining to the use and disclosure of information used in the tenant screening process and must include all specified information as outlined, including, but not limited to: full legal name, verification of employment/income, previous addresses and last known address, the results of a housing record history check (consistent to applicable law), any records that may exist of the applicant’s criminal history, etc.
The benefits of reusable tenant screening reports are not one-sided.
• First and foremost, the acceptance of a reusable tenant screening report by the landlord is entirely optional, and the landlord must be opted in if proceeding with a reusable tenant screening report. Opting in is not a requirement for the tenant screening process.
• Use of a reusable tenant screening report expedites the tenant screening and application process if the applicant is applying to multiple properties and mitigates the expense of the tenant paying multiple fees per property applied for.
• While the initial cost of obtaining the report from a consumer reporting agency is at the request and expense of the applicant, the option for reuse comes at no additional cost to the landlord or applicant, and the landlord is prohibited from charging an application fee to access or view the report.
• The 30-day reuse period allows for the most up-to-date and current information on the applicant if the timeframe is exceeded while the applicant is still applying to properties. This also gives agency and incentive to the applicant to complete the process in a timely manner.
• Reusable tenant screening reports must still contain all prescribed information required for the application, the same as any consumer report ordered for the purposes of renting a property.
• For convenience, reusable tenant screening reports can be ordered and provided through third-party screening providers such as ApplyConnect, which regularly engages in the business of providing a reusable tenant screening report. Doing so will also include propriety parameters each third-party provider includes in their screening process; for instance, shared reports you receive from ApplyConnect will also include ApplyConnect’s SAFE Screen review customized to your address.

While the list of pros is substantial, existing landlords considering proceeding with reusable tenant screening reports may be wondering – “Are there any cons I should be aware of before opting in and accepting a report this way? And what should I be prepared for?”
Like any bill newly signed into law, any inadvertent effects of AB 2559 remain to be seen. For instance, one could ascertain that a byproduct of prohibiting the charge of additional fees by a landlord who traditionally imposes an application/processing fee to cover any additional expenses other than the cost of obtaining the report means forfeiting the landlord’s autonomy to impose such a fee, and that additional cash flow as well. Landlords who opt in will need to amend their screening process to remove said fees.
Section F of the bill also asserts that if an ordinance, resolution, regulation, administrative action, initiative, or other policy adopted by a city, county, or city and county conflicts with this section, the policy that provides greater protections to applicants shall apply. In some cities and counties, these local laws can prohibit rental owners from considering their applicant’s criminal report, even if it’s on a reusable report. Landlords will also have to accept different formats of the report, as not all screening companies were created the same – one might source their data differently than another with different accuracy rates, primarily use FICO instead of VantageScore in credit reporting and vice versa, etc.
As more landlords and property managers accept reusable tenant screening reports, we’ll be able to see more definitively how and if that changes the leasing process in California. While the provisions in AB 2559 are optional now, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for legislation that could aim to make it required.

Read More »
Tenant Screening

Can Your Tenant Legally Own An Alligator As An Emotional Support Animal?

When you think of an emotional support animal, what comes to mind? It would be fair to assume the first thought to enter one’s head would be a dog, if not some kind of bipedal mammal — and most likely not a reptilian carnivore with razor-sharp teeth.

In enters WallyGator: a five-and-a-half foot, 70-pound TikTok famous alligator with over 72,600 followers on the platform owned by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Joie Henney. While it is legal to own alligators in Philadelphia, that isn’t the case in many other states — nor is it likely that the majority of pet gators, if any, qualify as emotional support animals. Or is it?

Since Wally’s uptick in popularity on the internet back in August, “alligators” as a related topic to the Google search query “emotional support animal” has seen a 300% increase in search frequency, most likely for the purposes of curious internet users seeing and reading about WallyGator for themselves. However, with the increase in popularity of keeping various species of reptiles as house pets and the common need for emotional support animals, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that people with legitimate mental health conditions, unique cases of PTSD, or related conditions could be looking into obtaining a support gator of their own.

As we’ve previously covered, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided guidance on how the Fair Housing Act (FHA) interfaces with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regarding emotional support animals. HUD classifies assistance animals into two different categories in order to distinguish their roles from one another: service animals (primarily dogs), and other trained animals that do work, perform tasks, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. Per HUD’s guidelines, because Wally is not a dog, he, therefore, cannot qualify as a service animal – so, how does HUD define Wally and his role, exactly?

HUD states if the service animal status is not readily apparent, to limit inquiries to two questions: “Is the animal required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”, and if the answer to either question is no, then following denial of service animal status under federal, HUD states that the animal can still qualify as a support animal or other assistance animal, depending on what needs to be accommodated.

In Wally’s case, Henney received approval to use him as a support animal after expressing to his doctor he did not want to be medicated for depression following the deaths of several family members and close friends in a short period of time, and more recently, his untimely cancer diagnosis. Even before rescuing and adopting Wally, Henney has worked with and rescued reptiles (particularly alligators) for over thirty years, and his vocation is one he is very passionate about – so it stands to reason his support animal of choice would be one he’s so accustomed to working with.

Because the ADA makes the same distinction that an emotional support animal would only be classified as such due to its mere presence providing comfort as opposed to employing any training to respond to a situation, HUD’s guidelines technically, but clearly grant Wally his status as a legitimate emotional support animal under federal law.

While Wally’s status is protected in the eyes of the law, HUD also states that a housing provider can refuse a reasonable accommodation request for a support or assistance animal if said animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of other which cannot be reduced or eliminated. However, before denying such a request due to a lack of information, a housing provider is encouraged to engage in a “good-faith” conversation with the owner of the support animal to gather information about the animal and mitigate any potential misunderstandings regarding its purpose.

Luckily for most property owners, WallyGator is very much an anomaly, and most folks aren’t scrambling to obtain an emotional support gator of their very own, anyway. Henney himself calls Wally a “very special gator” (he’s trained Wally to understand commands and to keep his mouth closed around other people) and actively discourages others to adopt a pet alligator if they’re not actively predisposed to working with alligators, stating “if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit”.

Check out ApplyConnect’s HUD guidance breakdown: https://www.applyconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Emotional-support-animals_-HUDs-Guidance-cliff-notes-AC-Version.pdf

Read More »

Get Started with ApplyConnect!

The nation’s most trusted tenant screening for real estate agents, landlords, and property managers. No cost background checks available 24/7.

©2018 ApplyConnect. All rights reserved

ApplyConnect marks used herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of applyconnect.com. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

Get Started with ApplyConnect!

The nation’s most trusted tenant screening for real estate agents, landlords, and property managers. No cost background checks available 24/7.

©2018 ApplyConnect. All rights reserved

ApplyConnect marks used herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of applyconnect.com. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.