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If you’re looking for a new place to live — or about to renew your lease — a landlord may run a tenant background check to decide whether to rent to you or not. The tenant background check process can be confusing, and renters often don’t know how the process works or what to do if something goes wrong. The FTC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), and Department of Justice have put out a new publication to help renters navigate the screening process.

Tenant background checks are usually compiled by tenant background check companies that put together a report on you and the people you live with. The tenant background check report — sometimes called a resident or tenant screening report — may have information about whether you pay your bills, if you’ve been evicted or have a criminal record, and more. But it’s often hard for you to know exactly what’s in your report before you apply and how a landlord might be using it. According to a CFPB study, many renters pay for this kind of background check but they don’t get to see the reports that landlords use, which may include mistakes like information that's outdated, misleading, or that belongs to someone else. 

The new publication tells you how tenant background checks work, what kinds of background information a landlord might receive about you, how to respond if you think that information is wrong, and your rights under federal laws — including laws related to tenant background checks and those that outlaw discrimination. For example, if the landlord makes a negative decision about your application because of your tenant background check report, you have the right to request a free copy of your report from the tenant background check company. You also have the right to dispute mistakes on your tenant background check report. Because the tenant screening process can be confusing, the FTC has another new article that goes into more detail about how to deal with mistakes in your tenant background check report.

To learn more, check out Tenant Background Checks and Your Rights and Disputing Errors on Your Tenant Background Check Report.

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March 21, 2024

Realtors have turned background checks fees into a lottery then the property doesn't go to the most qualified, it gets the fees then rents to cousin . It's deceptive, it's theft and that's CRIMINAL

March 21, 2024

In reply to by Vivian

Thank you for saying so! WHEN is our government going to care?! Can we find out if this is what's going on with our application?

March 27, 2024

In reply to by Vivian

We should ban all tenant screenings entirely. The eviction process is quick and landlords often asking for the last months rent in addition to a deposit, meaning they already have funds to cover their losses during an eviction proceeding. Landlords use screens to circumvent anti-discrimination laws and they put the cost-burden of homelessness on the taxpayers when they mitigate their risk through gatekeeping housing. Please change the law to require landlords to accept any tenant that has the move-in cash in-hand on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Diana Chambers
March 21, 2024

Rental applicants should also ask BEFORE paying the "supposed" background check company, the name of the company. There is a rampant practice of complexes collecting an "application fee" and turning down applicants WITHOUT running the background check and then keeping the fee.

March 22, 2024

First time looking for rental places in over 20 years. I'm appaled at all the fees charged; background check, administration fee, credit report fee. None of which are refundable or even deducted from the cost of rent. The rent in my state is very high. Landlords are turning tou down for rentals, even with excellent credit and payment history, just for NOT having 30% of your months income available up front to rent, in addition to the fees they charge. Additional fees to those mentioned were: deposit (hasnt changed only the price tag) of course non-refundable, conveniance fees, and pet fees. Pet fees I understand but why so many fee and why so much? Regarding pet fees: for 1 indorr-declawed/neutered cat w/proof from Vet: $200 deposit non-refunadable, plus $40/month, plus $25 maintenace fee for the pet. $265/pet. Then the fees I mentioned before add up to as much as $500. So now we're at $765 non-refundable fees. Then comes the rent; starting at $2,000/month one bedroom 600sq ft. and the price goes up. I have no choice to sell my home and downsize into an appartment.

March 25, 2024

In reply to by Sherry

You are SO correct!
I am so sorry for their demands like that. It is absolutely ludicrous!
I think we all need to contact our state representatives and voice our concerns!

Dee Brown
March 22, 2024

I have been dealing with thus very issue for over 9 months now. The real culprits are the mostly automated property management companies. Everything is computer generated and when your application is declined there's no recourse. The management company blames the credit bureau and vice versa. I have a voicemail saved from an inquiry I made about being denied a property due to inaccurate information. The agent literally says the system rejected me and it's non negotiable-BUT THE INFORMATION SITED AS THE REASON FOR DENIAL ISNT MINE! That's another $55 waisted.

Tracey A Ross
March 22, 2024

Why are tenant applicants required to pay a fee, for a background check?

April 02, 2024

Companies may consider significant life events such as cancer or serious illnesses when evaluating financial obligations. Consumers often bear the burden of high costs due to algorithmic assessments that determine their eligibility or suitability for certain services or accommodations. It's deeply concerning how such practices reflect on the principles of fairness and freedom.

April 05, 2024

There are good landlords and tenants, but there also bad landlords and tenants.
We hear horror stories of tenants that are not paying there rent and stay in the house free for months or years.
I know one story of a tenant that didn't pay her rent for months while was renting a room of the house. When she left, she not only destroyed the house but sold all appliances and what ever she could.
Hearing this I am not willing to buy a house and rent to people that I can't check there background. Landlords are raising rents to compensate for the they ha e lost with bad tenants. Good tenants paying for bad tenants and the TLB doesn't take decision soon to evict bad tenants.