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Tenant Screening Authorizations Best Practices

Posted: April 20, 2021

Screening a tenant—whether they have submitted a housing application or are renewing their lease—a signed authorization is required. This is because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law designed to protect consumer information. Consumer reports, which can include credit reports, eviction history, and criminal history, can only be accessed under this law for a “permissible purpose.”

Landlords and Property Managers are allowed to access consumer reports to screen tenants. However, there are some caveats. Landlords and Property Managers must obtain the tenant’s signed authorization, and the tenant must be currently applying for housing or renewing their lease. Additionally, reports received for this purpose cannot be used for anything else.

Once a landlord has completed the screening process, he can either shred the consumer reports or save the reports in a locked filing cabinet. Electronic information should not be able to be read or reconstructed.

Though consumer reports may be disposed of after use, it is crucial to keep the signed authorization from the tenant used to obtain the report. A general rule to follow is to keep a tenant’s signed authorization for seven years. This should help protect you as a landlord.

While this article outlines some important things to note under federal law, state or local laws could be more stringent. Remember to check for state or local laws regarding tenant screening to ensure you are in compliance.