How much info to provide on Rental applications?
How to make sure your rights are protected when providing personal information on rental applications.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates who may obtain your information, how it may be used and what penalties can be levied against those who flout the law. The FTC site can be accessed at www.ftc.gov.
Several sections apply to landlords, including the circumstances under which credit data may be collected.
According to the FTC site, such reports can be requested only for the purposes of extending credit, reviewing or collecting a debt, employment, underwriting insurance or in connection with some other legitimate business transaction.
A rental application is a legitimate business purpose, and landlords are allowed under the law to request a credit report.
Do you have to provide your Social Security number on the rental application? No, but to run the credit request, the applicant's full name, current address and Social Security number have to be provided to ensure the validity of the report.
On the plus side, new laws have turned the tables on those obtaining information, requiring them to provide their own professional and personal data before dashing off and running credit reports on others. As a result, parties calling for that credit report are held in closer scrutiny than ever before.
Last year, the Apartment Owners Assn. of California, one of the largest such groups in the country, implemented new procedures to comply with the FTC law and protect prospective tenants.
Members, including landlords and management companies, had to submit newly required documents to the association, including a service agreement that they would abide by the FTC rules. Members signing service agreements also had to provide a legible photocopy of their driver's license and until they did so, credit reports were not processed.
Landlords have to belong to some sort of apartment owner's association to obtain credit report information. The apartment association acts as a liaison between its members and credit report providers, such as Experian and TransUnion.
Rules vary by the company that provides the credit report. Requirements also vary by type of property management business.
One credit report provider requires individual property owners to provide solid proof of ownership, such as a copy of the county assessor's tax bill or grant deed.
Management companies and rental corporations are required to provide information that includes proof of formal contract with the individual authorized to use the credit information. Rental corporations must also pay a fee for an on-site inspection for the properties they wish to obtain credit reports for.
Another credit provider requires that individual landlords provide completed and properly signed rental applications for each property. An annual physical inspection of business premises also may be required. Landlords can be asked to show proof of adequate security, such as locked filing cabinets to protect rental information.
When a call is made by the landlord or his or her representative to the credit bureau, the operator asks for the specific information that identifies the account holder and name of the individual calling. If the numbers or information don't match up, the request may be rejected.
The drawback to consumers? Not all landlords belong to a credit service that requires them to submit proper paperwork.
How can you tell if that's the case? Simply ask. Whoever requests the credit report should know the answer.
Finally, always ask for a copy of the processed credit report. Not only is it free, but the processed report also provides proof that it was actually run and contact information if you have any questions.