The Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are requesting comment on background screening issues affecting individuals who seek rental housing in the United States, including how the use of criminal and eviction records and algorithms affect tenant screening decisions and may be driving discriminatory outcomes.
Renters are facing a range of challenges, from rising rents to a shortage of affordable rental housing. The FTC and CFPB are seeking information on background screening practices and their potential effect on people’s ability to obtain rental housing as part of a whole-of-government effort to address these issues.
“No one should be shut out of housing because of inaccurate or unfair background screening practices,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We are proud to be part of a whole-of-government effort to ensure fairness and equity in the rental market, and we are looking forward to hearing from the public on this vital issue.”
“Error-ridden background checks are increasingly used by corporate landlords to deny housing to Americans,” said Rohit Chopra, Director of the CFPB. “We will continue to work together to protect the integrity of our credit reporting system from sloppy background check companies.”
As part of the Request for Information , the FTC and CFPB are asking current tenants, prospective tenants, advocacy groups, commercial and individual landlords, property managers, background screening companies, other consumer reporting agencies, and others to weigh in on a wide array of issues that affect tenant screening such as:
- how criminal and eviction records are used by landlords and property managers in making housing decisions;
- how potential inaccuracies in criminal and other records affect rental housing decisions;
- whether consumers are informed about the criteria used in tenant screening or notified about what information in their background check led to their rejection;
- how landlords and property managers are setting application and screening fees;
- how algorithms, automated decision-making, artificial intelligence, or similar technology are used in the tenant screening process; and
- whether there are ways to improve the current tenant screening process.
The FTC and CFPB are working closely to identify practices that may unfairly prevent consumers from obtaining and retaining housing, and comments to the RFI will help inform enforcement and policy actions under each agency’s jurisdiction. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which the FTC and CFPB both enforce, also imposes requirements on many aspects of the tenant screening process.
The public will have 90 days to submit comments at Regulations.gov. Once submitted, comments will be posted to Regulations.gov.
The lead FTC staff attorneys on this matter were Whitney Moore, Amanda Koulousias and Jarad Brown from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.