Landlords who conduct tenant prescreening—and that should be every landlord—need to be complaint with federal regulations regarding personal and financial information. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) govern such information and its safekeeping, so it pays to be familiar with certain sections that cover how credit reports can be used, liability for noncompliance and conditions on disclosures to consumers.
The “Red Flags Rule” requires many businesses to establish written identity theft prevention programs to detect “red flags,” or patterns and warning signs that identity theft could be occurring.Last year, new rules were added that could affect landlords. An addition from December 18,2010 amended the definition of “creditor” to include those who regularly and in the ordinary course of business:
- Obtain or use consumer reports in connection with a credit transaction;
- furnish information to consumer reporting agencies in connection with a credit transaction; or
- advance funds to or on behalf of someone (except for those incidental to a service provided by the creditor to that person).
Depending on where you live and conduct business, you may be responsible for different laws regarding credit reporting for tenants and lease applicants. Here are four easy procedures that can help any landlord reduce identity theft:
- Make sure the applicant’s ID is real: forgeries are rampant and hard to detect. Tenant screening should include an ID check.
- Social security numbers and addresses must match up.
- Pay attention to alerts on credit reports.Victims of identity theft will add alerts to their credit reports.
- Keep all tenant personal and financial information secure in locked, fireproof cabinets. Limit access to these files and never leave confidential paperwork out on a desk or other area where it can be stolen.
Protect your tenants and yourself from liability by following the Red Flags rule.