Landlords in Oregon and Washington are new regulations around background screening programs in 2014. See below for our summary of the issues. We strongly recommend you consult qualified legal counsel whenever you implement changes to your program.
For landlords with properties in Washington we encourage you to refresh your knowledge of the Washington Residential Landlord-Tenant Act and section 257 Screening of prospective tenants… in particular.
Prior to obtaining any information about a prospective tenant, the prospective landlord shall first notify the prospective tenant in writing, or by posting, of the following:
- What types of information will be accessed to conduct the tenant screening;
- What criteria may result in denial of the application; and
- If a consumer report is used, the name and address of the consumer reporting agency (CRA) and the prospective tenant’s rights to obtain a free copy of the consumer report in the event of a denial or other adverse action, and to dispute the accuracy of information appearing in the consumer report.
If any adverse action is taken, whether based on information obtained by the prospective landlord directly or through a consumer report provided by a CRA, the prospective landlord shall provide written notice of the adverse action that states the reasons for the adverse action. The RCW [59.18.257(1)(c)] goes on to proscribe specific language and formating the your adverse action notice must contain in a “substantially similar format”.
Advanced Reporting has provided a sample notice incorporating Washington State and Federal requirements and included it in the integrated Forms and Disclosures for all tenant screening packages.
For landlords with properties in Oregon, if you haven’t read SB 91 The Landlord Tenant Coalition Bill which goes into effect on January 1, 2014 the time has come.
Here is our summary of the new Section 3 that may impact your screening program and a refresher on part of Section 6 which sets forth rules on screening practices and fees. The Section 2 is a plus for landlords setting out the ability to require tenants to obtain and maintain renter’s insurance in many situations.
Section 3 As a landlord you are no longer able to consider any action to recover possession (eviction) if the action was dismissed, resulted in a judgment for the applicant or results in a judgment against the applicant entered FIVE or more years before the rental application was submitted. These limitations go beyond the reporting restrictions of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) so if you don’t want to receive information that you can’t use in your decision making process you will need to have a conversation with your screening company or data providers. Advanced Reporting will automatically adjust our reporting processes to support our clients in their compliance.
Section 3 also specifies that landlords may not consider arrests or charges that did no results in a conviction unless the case is open or if the charge is drug related, person related, a sexual offense, involves financial fraud or if the crime is of a nature the would adversely affect the property of the landlord or tenant or the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises of residents, that landlord or the landlord’s agent.
As you’re considering the changes to the Landlord Tenant Coalition Bill you may also want to review Section 6 which sets out rules regarding applicant screening practices. Remember, landlords may not require payment of an applicant screening charge unless:
- prior to accepting the payment the landlord adopts written criteria and
- gives the applicant written notice of:
the screening charge
the screening criteria
the typical screening process and
the applicant’s rights to dispute the accuracy of any consumer report and
- gives notice of an estimate of the number of similar rental units available to rent from the landlord and
- gives written notice of the rent amount and required deposits and
- gives written notice whether the applicant is required to obtain and maint renter’s insurance and, if so, the amount required.