OLYMPIA - As families and individuals hand over cash and application forms for rental housing, they have the right to know what the screening process is looking for, what that screening has found and who reported the findings to potential landlords. Those areas would be covered by the Fair Tenant Screening Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. David Frockt.
“This is a real issue for several tenants, especially low-income tenants who may have a blemish on their credit scores,” said Frockt, D-Seattle.
Under the guidelines set by Senate Bill 6315, when landlords accept application payments from people seeking to rent a home or apartment, they must disclose what types of information will be included in the final reports, the types of blemishes that may result in the denial of the application and the name and address of the screening agency.
“The landlord has a pretty minimal burden here,” said Frockt. “You can either post or provide a written notice telling the tenant, ‘This is what I’m going to screen for and this information will let you know what sort of information we’re going to receive.’ ”
Frockt sponsored a similar measure as a member of the Washington House of Representatives last year. When that version did not pass, he spent part of the summer meeting with stakeholder groups to craft stronger legislation that offers a clear picture of the application process. It includes a section that requires landlords to tell applicants in writing the reasons for the denial of an application and provide contact information for the agency that completed the report.
“If there is a problem and they are not rented to, they can learn why,” Frockt explained. “They can then go and correct that information if there is something incorrect in the screening report.”
Frockt says the bill does take into account the rights of the landlord to know who they are potentially renting to. The new version of the bill creates a stakeholder group which will include landlords, tenant advocates and representatives of consumer reporting and tenant screening companies. That group will meet this spring and summer to deal with issues with the Fairness Act as they arise.
“Landlords have a reason to understand who they are renting to and we need to understand their point of view as well,” said Frockt.
SB 6315 received support from advocacy groups including the Tenants Union of Washington, the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance, and Landlord Protection Services, Inc. The bill was passed by the Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee on Thursday and will advance to the Senate Rules Committee for further consideration.
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For more information: Ian Cope, Senate Democratic Communications, 360-786-7535.
For interviews: Sen. David Frockt, 360-786-7690