Sen. Brown urges CFPB to conduct review of tenant screening industry

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is urging the new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Rohit Chopra, to review the tenant screening industry to protect renters.

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In April, Brown, chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, had contacted several tenant screening companies to inquire about tenant screening. He and the committee found inaccuracies in some of their screening reports and scores. These inaccuracies can lock tenants out of the housing market and exacerbate racial disparities in access to affordable housing.

Brown recently wrote to Chopra, outlining the finding from the committee’s inquiry.

“Despite efforts to validate information, the Committee found that a significant number of tenant screening reports contained inaccurate information. Inaccuracies in tenant screening reports may result in landlords denying applicants rental housing or charging higher security deposits,” Brown wrote. “For example, an inaccurate report leading to an adverse decision could cause a family to lose its non-refundable application fee. For families that live paycheck to paycheck, being denied housing as a result of a screening report’s inaccuracies could strain much-needed resources and deplete a household’s savings. Inaccuracies can also limit the number of applications a household can reasonably afford to submit and may prevent households from securing safe, decent, and conveniently-located affordable housing.”

Brown also informed Chopra about tenant screening companies’ practices around reporting eviction filings, even when tenants were not ultimately evicted.

“This is particularly problematic for low-income, women, and Black renters who experience a higher rate of eviction filings than white renters. Depending on the criteria used to screen tenants, an eviction filing not leading to an eviction may be included in a tenant screening report score or recommendation and ultimately influence a landlord’s rental decision-making process. Even in instances where an eviction filing is dismissed, the tenant’s rent worthiness may be adversely impacted due to scoring criteria and rating standards of screening companies,” he wrote.

Brown concluded by asking the CFPB to begin a review of the tenant screening industry and use its authorities to protect renters.