New rules about tenant screening

By Steve Tytler

On May 20, I wrote a column about rental property owners using credit reporting agencies or tenant-screening services to check the credit rating and criminal history of rental applicants.

I think that is extremely important because as someone once said, “The cheapest eviction you will ever do is the one before they move in.”

In response to that column, I received a letter from the Snohomish County Apartment Operators Association, scaoa.com/, pointing out that a new tenant-screening law that went into effect June 7 added a few new requirements for rental property owners.

Under the new “Fair Tenant Screening Act” law, before obtaining any information about a prospective tenant, the property owner is required to notify the rental applicant in writing what type of information will be used to conduct the tenant screening; what criteria that may result in denial of the application; and, if a consumer credit report is used, the name and address of the credit reporting agency, and the prospective tenant’s rights to obtain a free copy of the credit report in the event of a denial and to dispute the accuracy of information appearing in the credit report.

The property owner may charge a prospective tenant for costs incurred in obtaining a tenant-screening report only if the owner provides all of the information listed in the paragraph above.

The law also states that if an adverse action is taken, the property owner must provide a written notice to the prospective tenant that states the reasons for the adverse action, as well as the contact information for any credit reporting agency used in determining the adverse action.

In summary, the main new change to the law is that property owners must tell rental applicants up front what criteria will be used to determine an acceptable tenant.

Remember it is illegal to discriminate against prospective tenants on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, disability, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation (including gender identity), or veteran or military status.

When I rent my properties, my primary criteria for selecting an acceptable rental applicant are:

•Amount and stability of gross monthly income, preferably at least three times the monthly rent.

Desired length of tenancy. I prefer long-term, multiyear tenants rather than having to re-rent the property every year.

Good credit and rent payment history. I want to see that the rental applicant has a good track record of paying their bills on time, especially their monthly rent.

Steve Tytler is a licensed real estate broker and owner of Best Mortgage. You can email him at features@heraldnet.com.