Landlords use secret algorithms to screen potential tenants. Find out what they said about you. – ProPublica


In this guide, you will find answers to the following questions:

Do I have a tenant score?

How can these scores affect me?

Where can I find my score?

My score is bad. What can I do to improve it?

What do I need to know when I apply for housing in the future?

How do I request my score from a screening company?

The company will not return my score. What can I do?

How can I help ProPublica investigate tenant scores?

If you’ve ever applied to rent a house or apartment, you might have a tenant score. Renter ratings are different from your credit rating. Tenant screening companies put your personal information into secret algorithms and assess you as a potential tenant. These scores can have a huge impact on your life when trying to get approval for an apartment.

Unlike credit scores, federal regulators do not review tenant scoring models or algorithms. There is little advice available on how to improve your score. It’s not even easy to tell if a company gave you a score.

My old building used a tenant screening company called LeasingDesk, so I requested to see my case through the LeasingDesk website. Five days later, a one-page report appeared in my inbox. It contained a surprising amount of detail about me, ranging from my old address in a house where I had sublet a room one summer in college nearly 20 years ago to a late fee of $ 100 that I I paid in 2018. I had no evictions or criminal history, but the report was chock full of information that could hinder my ability to negotiate a lower rent if shared with future landlords. However, the report did not show my tenant score.

When I called LeasingDesk, a customer service rep told me that the company removes all scores 60 days after a selection.

But consumer lawyers we spoke with for this project expressed doubts about removing my score, saying they had asked for and seen scores and reports from much older tenants in lawsuits against the parent company. from LeasingDesk, RealPage Inc. I decided to keep trying and sent another requesting my rating by registered letter. In an August 27 email, the company assigned my request a case number, but gave no indication of when I might receive a response or if it would include my score.

Renter scores affect a lot of people, and that’s why we report them. We would also appreciate hearing about your experiences with these companies. Tell us about your tenant scores and how they compare to your credit scores below.

Do I have a tenant score?

May be. Many tenants are unaware that they have been assessed by a tenant screening company.

Depending on the laws of your state, your landlord may not be required to share your score or selection report with you, unless you are refused accommodation. According to San Francisco attorney Craig Davis, the best way to tell if you have a tenant score is to ask your landlord or property manager for the name of the tenant screening companies they used to screen you.

How can these scores affect me?

Landlords can use tenant scores to decide whether they are renting you or how much to charge you for a security deposit. We have heard from renters that the scores have had an impact on their ability to find housing. Other tenants have reported that they were refused apartments or asked to pay double security deposits due to their tenant scores.

Where can I find my score?

Some tenants receive their ratings in housing approval or denial letters. If not, Davis recommends asking your landlord or property manager for your screening report. Davis said he heard some clients say property managers and landlords opposed the requests, saying they couldn’t release the reports directly to tenants. But Davis said you have the right to see your report. In fact, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires tenant screening companies to provide you with an on-demand report listing all of the information the company has about you.

My score is bad. What can I do to improve it?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends checking your report for any inaccurate information. You have the right to dispute any incorrect information and to ask the audit company to remove it from your file. You can use the same contact methods as below. If the company claims to have received information from court records or credit agencies, you will need to correct your file with those agencies first.

What do I need to know when I apply for housing in the future?

Here are some tips from CFPB:

  • If you are applying as a tenant for a residential property, ask the management company for the names of any consumer reporting companies they will use to screen you.
  • Contact tenant screening companies to verify your information and dispute any inaccuracies. A tenant screening report containing negative information, such as previous housing evictions, could result in the rejection of a lease application, or it may be approved but with strict conditions inserted in the rental agreement, such as you require 12 months rent to be paid in advance.
  • If a landlord refuses to rent you or charges you more because of a background check, make sure you know your rights and protections.

How do I request my score from a screening company?

It is not known how many tenant screening companies exist. There isn’t an exhaustive list, which is why we’ve compiled a list of a dozen of the most well-known tenant screening companies below with instructions on how to request your free report, which may contain your score.

Many of these screening companies allow you to request your report online, by phone, or by mail. But before they send you a report, you’ll often need to verify your identity by providing your Social Security number, date of birth, and a photocopy of your driver’s license. If you are hesitant to provide this type of personal information, ask them if they can process your request using just your name and the last four digits of your Social Security number.

The company will not return my score. What can I do?

Next steps could include consulting a lawyer or sending a formal request for a case by mail. I have sent a certified letter to RealPage Headquarters, requesting my complete client file, including my tenant reports and scores, and the dates when those scores were calculated. I also asked them to provide a list of owners or businesses that had received information about me.

Help ProPublica investigate tenant scores

Have you had trouble renting an apartment and you don’t understand why? This could be your tenant selection score.

Has a tenant screening company, such as LeasingDesk, On-Site, Credco or RentGrow sent you a score or report? We want to understand their effect on tenants.

Develop

Heather Vogell contributed reporting.

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