Fair Tenant Screening Act SHB 1257 FAQ

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You can download a pdf of this FAQ here.

Q: How long will these portable reports be good for?
A: The comprehensive tenant screening report would be valid for 30 days after production, after which the tenant would be responsible for purchasing a new report to ensure that the information is current.

 

Q: Will this legislation force landlords to pay for tenant screening reports?
A: No. Under current law, a residential landlord may charge the actual costs of tenant screening to an application (see RCW 59.18.257(1)(b)). A tenant would still pay for the actual costs of the secure, current, and comprehensive screening report. However, tenants would no longer be responsible for paying for any additional screening reports purchased above and beyond the supplied report.

 

Q: How do portable reports work?
A: Examples of portable screening reports already exist on the market and give us an idea of how this legislation would work in practice. These reports are provided directly from the screening company to the landlord. For instance, Moco, a company that provides portable tenant screening reports, does so by uploading the report to a secure website and providing a password that applicants can share with housing providers. Once the landlord has that password, they can log in and see the report at no cost. The tenant has no way of changing or tampering with the information on that website.

 

Q: Will this legislation impact a landlord’s ability to screen out applicants they deem undesirable?
A: No. The proposed legislation does not affect the content of a screening report, nor does it affect the types of screening criteria that a landlord can use. The legislation would have no impact on a landlord’s ability to screen out applicants.

 

Q: Are Landlords required to accept these reports?
A: No. Landlords would still have the option to purchase additional tenant screening reports if they so choose. However, they would no longer be able to pass those costs onto applicants.

 

Q: What’s included in a typical tenant screening report? What would be included in reports offered through this legislation?
A: Most tenant-screening reports contain three major components:

  • A financial credit report, usually purchased from one of the “Big 3” national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union);
  • A criminal background check; and
  • An eviction history.

Under this legislation, the portable report would be required to be thorough and comprehensive, meaning that it would include all of the above. It would require a credit report from a nationwide credit-reporting agency, such as Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union. It would require a criminal records search with records from every state where the applicant has lived in the last seven years leading up to the application, plus a separate check of sex offender registries. It would additionally require an eviction history report containing information from every state where the applicant has lived in the last seven years.

 

Q: What if the report doesn’t have this information?
A: If a tenant screening report does not include all of the required components, then it wouldn’t be eligible for protection under this legislation and the landlord could charge the tenant to order a comprehensive report.

 

Q: When will this bill go into effect?
A: The implementation of the bill is delayed for two years, in order to give the market and landlords time to adjust.

For more information about the Fair Tenant Screening Act, check out our advocacy page here.