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

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

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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.

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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.