Tenant Screening and Washington State Law
Just because you’re buying an FCRA-compliant report doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s been tailored to the laws of your city and state. In many cases, you will be responsible for understanding those rules and ensuring that those are not affecting the decision to accept a potential tenant. Look for services that tailor your report to the area you’re renting in so that you can avoid costly disputes.
For example, the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance in Seattle prevents landlords from denying applicants for having a criminal history. When reviewing tenant screening services, make sure that the report has relevant disclaimers for your area. Some services, such as Whitepages TenantCheck, will automatically remove this information to comply with local laws.
It is also important to know how often the screening service updates their records:
- Credit reporting is a highly regulated industry, which means you’ll usually have up to date information no matter which tenant screening company you use.
- Criminal records aren’t always as reliable, so you’ll want to ensure you’re using a service that stays up-to-date. Before deciding on a tenant screening service, make sure that they are regularly updating their records with new information from courthouses and sex offender registries.
- The applicant’s eviction history can also be included with certain reports, sometimes as part of an enhanced package. Along with best practices for Checking References, this is a great way to see if there were problems with a previous rental.
How Screening Services Score Tenants in Washington State
To help you quickly understand if a tenant is going to be right for your property, many services provide a summarized score. The most common rating provided is a credit score, which reviews the individual’s ability to pay on time. While this is definitely an important measurement, there are other factors you will want to examine.
By default, credit scores don’t necessarily track a person’s income, the rate at which they are paid, and how those correspond to your rent requirements. These are important factors to consider since they paint a larger picture of what you can expect from the tenant’s stay. TenantCheck includes these additional complexities in the calculation, providing you with a Resident Score.
This is important because certain cities have rules against using certain information - Seattle doesn’t allow you to use a criminal history for denying a tenant, for example. In cases where you have fewer details to analyze, this score will be an essential factor in making your decision.
How to Read a Washington State Tenant’s Credit Report
Reviewing a person’s credit history is often as easy as confirming they make timely payments to their bank, credit card, and any personal loans. However, sometimes their lenders will make special remarks about the individual’s account or payment history. These terms are often fairly straight-forward; “Account closed for refinance” is self-explanatory, but other terms can be confusing. For example, there are multiple ways to file for bankruptcy that you may want to know about. Or what about the difference between a forbearance and foreclosure?
While you can likely find answers to some of these questions online, you probably want to hear explanations directly from the team that’s delivering the report to you. This article was written for Whitepages TenantCheck, but it might act as a useful primer no matter which service you’re using.
What to Expect from a Tenant Background Screening Report in WA
Curious about what a report looks like? For new landlords, you’ll probably want to familiarize yourself with what to expect. This will help you avoid surprises after you or the tenant pays for it. Reports will always include a credit history. Criminal records are provided when permitted by the city or state, but we recommend familiarizing yourself with local laws before using these records as a deciding factor.
See a sample Whitepages TenantCheck report.