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Whether you’re just starting out or starting a new life, information on your background report can determine if you get credit, a job, or even housing. That’s why the law requires background screening companies to take steps to ensure the accuracy of the information they collect and share about you. But some companies don’t take enough of these steps and put together inaccurate background reports that can stand between you and a place to live.

The FTC says AppFolio, a tenant screening company, didn’t have procedures to ensure the information they reported on prospective tenants was accurate. AppFolio allegedly gave landlords reports with incorrect criminal and eviction information, outdated or duplicate information, records for a different name or date of birth, or records that left out important details, like the outcome of a court case. Because AppFolio allegedly didn’t take steps to ensure accurate information, the FTC says applicants may have been denied apartments or other housing.

If you’re looking to rent a place, find out what’s on your background and credit reports and be prepared to correct any errors and resolve any issues with your credit:

  • Get a free copy of your credit report and fix any errors before you apply. Through December 2023, you can get a free credit report every week.
  • If you have negative but correct information on your credit report, start working on fixing your credit with steps you can do yourself— without paying anyone.
  • Be sure to give the landlord your correct full name and date of birth.
  • Ask the landlord for the name of the background screening company they use. Then try to get a copy of your report to check for errors.
  • If you have a criminal history or previous housing court actions, gather any paperwork showing how the action was resolved.
  • Read more about background checks for housing (and employment) to understand your rights

If a landlord rejected you because of incorrect information on your background report, dispute the information with the background screening company — and let the landlord know. Also, report it to the FTC.

If you think a landlord discriminated against you, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Updated Sept. 23, 2022 to reflect the extension of weekly free credit reports through December 2023.

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December 08, 2020
I have nothing on my credit that's negative that is. I have paid cash for everything I have. I also have reported to ftc for identity theft, false impersonation, others for fraud. I own this house as well.
Martin N
December 08, 2020
This warning from the FTC is very much needed. However, it needs to be expanded. Not only can incorrect credit information deny you a house, it can "bite" you as a home owner. My wife and I are examples. We received notice from our homeowner insurance company that we had an inadequate credit standing based on information provided them from a national firm that processes credit bureau information and "ranks" your risk as an insurance's client. Here are some of the reasons we found that may have been used to declare us a high risk, thus deserving a higher annual charge for our coverage. (I say "may have" because we have never been able to find out specifics.) 1 - Too few months on our credit cards. (We'd traded in our old cards for those offering air miles. ) 2 - No mortgage line of credit. (We'd paid off our mortgage... I guess doing so says you're a higher risk.) 3 - We Reduced our card limits. (Not wanting to risk losses via a stolen card, we asked the bank to lower the limit... another mistake). 4 - Paid off our cards each month. (To live within our means we have made a point to pay off the cards each month... again a mistake.) So, when you get down to it, our diligence caused our problem. But, try to find out exactly what each factor was that"cost" us or exactly how the credit risk rating company made their determination has proven impossible. What needs to happen? First, laws are needed requiring the explicit structure of their process and the exact data employed to arrive at YOUR score which must be available to you. Second, the FTC and other consumer protection agencies (most states have insurance company regulators) should explore this misuse of credit information and, if nothing can be done legally, to alert the public how they too can be impacted as we were.