State Adopts New Tenant Screening Rules

by | Mar 19, 2012 | Tenant Screening

Washington state lawmakers have enacted a new law that requires landlords there to warn tenants in advance what information they are looking for in tenant screening reports.

Sen. David Frockt, the bill’s sponsor, says that the law was designed to help low-income tenants and others who are vulnerable to homelessness, like victims of domestic violence.

The Washington State House of Representatives passed the measure on an 81-16 vote, following an earlier 46-0 Senate vote. The Governor signed the measure last week.

Under the provisions of the new law, prior to screening a prospective tenant — and in order to charge the prospective tenant for that screening — a landlord must first notify the applicant in writing or by posting what type of information will be included in a tenant screening report, and what criteria could result in the denial of an application. The landlord must share the name and address of the screening agency, so that tenants know where to go to correct erroneous information in a report. Finally, if a landlord decides to pursue an adverse action such as denying tenancy or imposing different fees or rules on an applicant — like a higher security deposit,  they would be required to provide an “adverse action notice,” explaining the reasoning behind the decision.

“This law is a compromise between tenant and landlord groups,” said Michele Thomas with the Washington State Low Income Housing Alliance.  “Landlords can and should have access to a high quality report on prospective tenants. But tenants should also have the right to see what’s in those reports, to know what factors are being considered, and to know why they’re being denied tenancy or having to pay an extra security deposit.”

Linda Olsen with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence was disappointed that additional protections for domestic violence victims were taken out of the bill at the last minute.  Domestic violence advocates have pushed for restrictions on when a landlord can deny an applicant due to a bad eviction report where the applicant had good reason to flee.

The legislation calls for an advisory board of interested parties to consider additional provisions or modifications that may be needed.  Specifically, the board will discuss the costs charged to tenants for obtaining tenant screening reports; the portability of tenant screening reports; criteria used to evaluate a prospective tenant’s background, including which court records may or may not be considered; and, further regulation of tenant screening services within the state. That board’s recommendations are due no later than December of 2012.

The law becomes effective June 7.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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