City council passes law to help New York rental applicants

Update: Tenant Fair Chance Act signed by Mayor Bloomberg

The deadline for compliance is July 1, 2010. Read the law.

"Tenant Fair Chance Act" aims to keep tenants in the loop about screening reports

New York — Last week, New York City passed the Tenant Fair Chance Act. If signed by the mayor, the law would require landlords and apartment brokers to tell applicants the company they use for resident screening, so the consumers can obtain their own copies and correct problems.

Local housing courts restrict the quality of landlord/tenant records that can be reliably obtained by screening services. A court record on a renter’s file is a serious black mark and most landlords reject rental applications with a risky profile such as bad credit or a housing court filing. Matching court filings to credit files is tricky business; there is no centralized database and some filings do not include identifiers like a Social Security Number.

Some credit checks, however, take shortcuts, such as matching records using nothing more than a similar name and refusing to amend reports when consumers complain of errors or misleading files.

These tactics are understandably frustrating to renters — and the inaccuracies should be a concern for landlords too.

At On-Site, we work hard to deliver the most accurate, timely information possible. Moreover, we offer a complete document management solution, so it’s simple to stay compliant with changing laws like the Tenant Fair Chance Act.

On-Site is different:

  • We invest in a wide variety of local and national data sources
  • We build technology to eliminate "false positives" and other errors that other credit checks churn out
  • We staff a dedicated Renter Relations department to address consumer disputes the same day
  • We update your application materials and lease documents to make compliance easy

What NYC landlords need to know

This proposal does NOT affect your ability to screen out risky residents. However, it does complicate your paperwork.

  1. Update your application forms. The name and address of your resident screening company should be clearly displayed.
  2. Get to know your screeners’ policies. How are consumer disputes handled?
  3. Use a Denial Notice and Adverse Action Notice when appropriate. On-Site generates these forms automatically.
  4. Advertise your fine print. Develop signage in your office about the resident screening service you use, and how to contact the company.