A new lawsuit in Washington state illustrates how critical it is for landlords, property managers, and tenant screening companies to know the specific tenant screening laws that apply in every state. The ACLU has filed suit against Yardi, a prominent tenant screening company, for rejecting tenant applications due to criminal records that were more than 7 years old. Under Washington's tenant laws, an applicant cannot be denied residence due to a criminal record older than 7 years. Read a news report on this case here.
By and large, private landlords have no idea that most states have laws that explicitly limit what information can be used to deny a rental applicant. Luckily for these landlords, most applicants also have no idea that these tenant screening laws exist. Thus, private landlords are not particularly likely to face serious threat for denying an applicant in violation of his/her state's tenant protection laws. For larger property management companies, however, this is a different story. Where there is more money on the line, there is always an increased threat of litigation. These companies need to educate themselves on what information can be used to deny an applicant in each state.
AccuRental's tenant reports provide all criminal records that are found for each applicant, regardless of the criminal record's age. It is then the landlord's responsibility to know the specific laws for the state in which your property sits. To make this easier, AccuRental has decided to immediately begin constructing a database of every state's laws that concern using criminal / eviction reports to evaluate tenants. Hopefully this resource will help both private landlords and larger property management companies avoid the type of liability that is being put on the line in this lawsuit.