Could the information you provide on a rental home application compromise your privacy? What about fair housing rules and regulations? What vulnerabilities might a landlord suffer?
At least in the state of Georgia, landlords can ask pretty much anything they want about the applicant’s financial situation. They can obtain social security numbers. They can run credit reports with the tenant prospect’s consent. If the prospect does not consent, the landlord can simply deny the application, if that is landlord or company policy. The landlord can perform criminal background checks without specific consent. They can ask about the relationships between the proposed occupants and about next of kin. They can obtain current and recent landlord references. They can obtain prospect phone numbers and email addresses. They can ask about the prospect’s employment history and even verify the facts provided with the employer. Essentially, all is fair game.
There are two areas of caution: The landlord has a duty, under federal law, to protect the sensitive information gathered, and to use it only for the purposes for which it was obtained. The landlord also has a duty to draw conclusions about the suitability of each prospect within the purview of federal and state fair housing laws. This means that if the owner is not a natural person, or if the owner owns more than 3 rental properties, the owner cannot make an application decision based upon the 7 protected federal categories: National origin, race, religion, color, sex, familial status, and handicap. AIDS victims are considered to be handicapped. In Georgia, landlords also cannot discriminate based upon sexual preference.
Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, the landlord must safeguard sensitive information gathered during application process.
So what information is collected is not really the issue. The issue is more about what to do with the information collected.
Daniel R. Wilhelm
3 Options Realty, LLC.
dan @ 3optionsrealty.com
The author of this Blog is not an attorney. Nothing written should be construed as legal advice. Conclusions conveyed are outcomes based upon practical experience and should not be depended upon to be a common outcome of other similar circumstances.