You Need a Strong Way to Protect Yourself in the Housing Industry

You Need a Strong Way to Protect Yourself in the Housing Industry

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Everything is up for grabs in the rental housing industry. More and more tenant protection laws are passing all of the time, and with each one, a landlord’s job gets a bit more restrictive, a bit more difficult, and a lot easier to get in trouble with the law. There’s too much to remember and to cross reference; how can you keep up with all the laws that say you’re allowed to do one thing in your state, but are actually illegal in your property’s county? A landlord needs a good way to protect themselves, and we have a few that can help.

Why It Is Worrisome

Everything is up for grabs in the rental housing industry. More and more tenant protection laws are passing all of the time, and with each one, a landlord’s job gets a bit more restrictive, a bit more difficult, and a lot easier to get in trouble with the law. There’s too much to remember and to cross reference; how can you keep up with all the laws that say you’re allowed to do one thing in your state, but are actually illegal in your property’s county? A landlord needs a good way to protect themselves, and we have a few that can help.

Why It Is Worrisome

Things move fast in the rental housing industry, and when they move, they move hard. Just recently, both California and Michigan began limiting the use, and access to, dates of birth. That’s a serious hamper on how a landlord can screen their tenants, but that’s not the biggest problem. If you live in Illinois, you may expect that you have the typical, everyday allowance when it comes to criminal background checks! But if your property is behind specific county lines, you could get in serious trouble. Just a short drive through Illinois to Cook County, and you are only allowed to make decisions based on three years of criminal background screening.

Things move fast in the rental housing industry, and when they move, they move hard. Just recently, both California and Michigan began limiting the use, and access to, dates of birth. That’s a serious hamper on how a landlord can screen their tenants, but that’s not the biggest problem. If you live in Illinois, you may expect that you have the typical, everyday allowance when it comes to criminal background checks! But if your property is behind specific county lines, you could get in serious trouble. Just a short drive through Illinois to Cook County, and you are only allowed to make decisions based on three years of criminal background screening.

So, as a landlord, does that mean you need to keep all those county lines drawn up in your head, and all the laws within them too? Do you need to constantly worry about county lines getting redrawn? Or perhaps that’s Plan B, and Plan A can be a bit more reliable.

Data Filtered For You

There are a lot of laws that can trip you up in this world, and a lot of mistakes that can get you in serious trouble. With most of the country having a standard seven-year rule when it comes to criminal background checks, even seeing a conviction that is, say, twelve years old, and denying said applicant could get you in deep water. This is especially true if that applicant decides you illegally denied them based on that conviction, simply because you saw it.

So, as a landlord, does that mean you need to keep all those county lines drawn up in your head, and all the laws within them too? Do you need to constantly worry about county lines getting redrawn? Or perhaps that’s Plan B, and Plan A can be a bit more reliable.

Data Filtered For You

There are a lot of laws that can trip you up in this world, and a lot of mistakes that can get you in serious trouble. With most of the country having a standard seven-year rule when it comes to criminal background checks, even seeing a conviction that is, say, twelve years old, and denying said applicant could get you in deep water. This is especially true if that applicant decides you illegally denied them based on that conviction, simply because you saw it.

ApplyConnect does have a tool that can prevent legal issues like this from happening: we can prevent you from seeing it in the first place. With ApplyConnect, when you input the property’s zip code as you send your invitation, we are able to filter the information you see, based on the tenant screening restriction laws in your county, city, state, and of course nationwide laws, that apply to that property. From there, your tenant’s screening report will display criminal and eviction information that you can legally base your final decision on. This allows landlords to view their applicants report in a safer manner than you might otherwise.

ApplyConnect does have a tool that can prevent legal issues like this from happening: we can prevent you from seeing it in the first place. With ApplyConnect, when you input the property’s zip code as you send your invitation, we are able to filter the information you see, based on the tenant screening restriction laws in your county, city, state, and of course nationwide laws, that apply to that property. From there, your tenant’s screening report will display criminal and eviction information that you can legally base your final decision on. This allows landlords to view their applicants report in a safer manner than you might otherwise.

Tenant Run Background Checks

In addition, ApplyConnect is a consumer-initiated service that allows your tenant to begin the background screening process. Unlike traditional tenant screening, which requires landlords and property managers to sign layers of contracts and go through an inspection, consumer-initiated background screening lets you get reports securely online, directly through your tenant. Your applicant benefits from non-traditional screening too! When a tenant shares their credit check, their credit score is not impacted. That’s something you can use to build your reputation as a landlord who cares and a better chance that they’ll leave you a good review.

It’s good to be wary when you’re screening your potential tenants. With laws always changing, you should be aware of the risk involved. It is hard to keep up when there is so much potential to get in trouble. On the bright side, we can try and help you out while the laws around the country shift on a dime.

Tenant Run Background Checks

In addition, ApplyConnect is a consumer-initiated service that allows your tenant to begin the background screening process. Unlike traditional tenant screening, which requires landlords and property managers to sign layers of contracts and go through an inspection, consumer-initiated background screening lets you get reports securely online, directly through your tenant. Your applicant benefits from non-traditional screening too! When a tenant shares their credit check, their credit score is not impacted. That’s something you can use to build your reputation as a landlord who cares and a better chance that they’ll leave you a good review.

It’s good to be wary when you’re screening your potential tenants. With laws always changing, you should be aware of the risk involved. It is hard to keep up when there is so much potential to get in trouble. On the bright side, we can try and help you out while the laws around the country shift on a dime.

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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 »

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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 »

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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.