WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWLP)– The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the many issues facing people looking for, and trying to keep, rental units.

Rising rents and housing shortages are one set of challenges. For people who have criminal and eviction records, the screening process is making it prohibitive for them to find a place to live.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are looking for public input into the issue of background screening practices and the impact on a person’s ability to obtain rental housing.

“No one should be shut out of housing because of inaccurate or unfair background screening practices,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We are proud to be part of a whole-of-government effort to ensure fairness and equity in the rental market, and we are looking forward to hearing from the public on this vital issue.”

“Error-ridden background checks are increasingly used by corporate landlords to deny housing to Americans,” said Rohit Chopra, Director of the CFPB. “We will continue to work together to protect the integrity of our credit reporting system from sloppy background check companies.”

Tenants, prospective tenants, tenants’ rights and housing advocacy groups, industry participants (including property managers, commercial landlords, individual landlords, and consumer reporting agencies that develop credit and tenant screening reports used by landlords and property managers to screen prospective tenants), other members of the public, and government agencies are being asked to submit comments on many issues including:

  • how criminal and eviction records are used by landlords and property managers in making housing decisions;
  • how potential inaccuracies in criminal and other records affect rental housing decisions;
  • whether consumers are informed about the criteria used in tenant screening or notified about what information in their background check led to their rejection;
  • how landlords and property managers are setting application and screening fees;
  • how algorithms, automated decision-making, artificial intelligence, or similar technology are used in the tenant screening process; and
  • whether there are ways to improve the current tenant screening process

As part of the project, the FTC and CFPB are also looking to identify unfair rental practices. Comments may be submitted at Regulations.gov and must be received no later than May 30, 2023.

Comments submitted are public record and people participating should not reveal any sensitive or confidential information such as Social Security numbers, date of birth of submitter or tenants, drivers license, passport or other legal documents.