Clean Up Your Tenant History With The FCRA

The Fair Credit Reporting Act doesn’t just regulate the Big Three (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). It also regulates tenant screening agencies that report things like late rent payments, evictions, and other tenant information. Tenant-related information may show up in traditional credit reports or in tenant screening agency reports. If your rental application is denied, get a copy of any reports that were used in denying your application and, if anything is inaccurate, challenge it.

The FTC has a sample dispute letter (scroll to bottom of page) that you can use to dispute inaccuracies.

  • Be specific, and tell the consumer reporting agency (“CRA”) why the information is inaccurate.
  • Send any documents that back up your dispute.
  • Keep copies.

The CRA then has 30 days to investigate the dispute, modify or delete the information as appropriate (including noting that the information is disputed), and notify you of what they did. If the CRA cannot verify the information, it must delete it.

If you make a dispute and the CRA removes the information, you win. If you make a dispute and the CRA does not remove the information, you may have a good lawsuit against the CRA.

If you make a dispute and the CRA does not remove inaccurate information after a written dispute, and if you later suffer damage (i.e., another denial of rental housing), you can sue the CRA and get your actual financial losses, damages for emotional distress, and attorney fees and costs. Consumer attorneys should be willing to take FCRA cases on contingency due to the attorney fee provision. (Find consumer attorneys at NACA.) SAM GLOVER

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  1. amb1545 says:

    How about some information on where we can find these consumer reporting agencies so that we can actually do something about it?

  2. Sam Glover says:

    Well, the Big Three are easy to find. Just add .com to the end of their name. Tenant screening agencies, however, are smaller, more numerous, and often local. Minnesota, for example, has at least ten, and probably more that I haven’t yet encountered. Google helps, but only partially.

    If you run into a denial, you should ask the owner/landlord for a copy of any report they used, and start there. A local tenant hotline should be able to give you more information about where else to look.