A tenant screening agency that rejected consumers’ requests for their files and failed to recheck information on their consumer reports after they had disputed it has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated federal law. The settlement order requires the company to pay a $100,000 civil penalty and bars future violations.
According to the FTC, the tenant screening company compiles reports that landlords use to assess potential renters. These reports list tenant evictions, lease and payment information, and criminal history records. When consumers faxed the company requests for their files or notices disputing the information in their files, instead of fulfilling the requests, as the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires, the company allegedly advised them that they would have to mail their requests. Under the FCRA, consumers are entitled to quick responses to their requests, especially because delays can cause them to lose out on a place they are hoping to rent.
In addition to imposing the civil penalty, the settlement order requires First Advantage SafeRent, Inc. to disclose the contents of the consumer’s file when the consumer requests it, and to investigate the accuracy of information in a report when a consumer disputes it.
The Commission vote to refer the complaint and stipulated final order to the Department of Justice for filing was 4-0. The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe”
that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. Stipulated court orders are for settlement purposes only and do not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Stipulated orders are subject to court approval and have the force of law when signed by the judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.