What is it?
For years, housing advocates in Washington have worked to make the rental screening process more transparent and fair. We’ve had some important victories over the last two legislative sessions, but there are still some common-sense changes we can make to improve the system.
If you’ve had to look for rental housing, then you know that the screening fees can add up quickly. During a single housing search, the average prospective tenant spends more than $166 in fees. This can be a real challenge for low-income families, and it’s an unnecessary burden because much of the information in the reports is the same. The Fair Tenant Screening Act would create a single, portable, standardized report that a renter could share with multiple potential landlords.
Housing advocate Thomas Green was stuck in a homeless shelter for months longer than he needed to be because of tenant screening fees. He shares his story in the video below, and explains why he supports the Fair Tenant Screening Act.
How would it work?
A renter would pay for one standard, comprehensive online report and provide landlords with access to it. The report would last for one month. Landlords would still be free to use their own tenant screening company, but they wouldn’t be able to charge the tenant for any additional reports.
What’s the impact?
With the screening cost burden alleviated, people staying in YWCA shelters or other temporary living situations would be able to move more quickly into permanent homes.
What happened in 2014?
This year the bill passed the House but died in the Senate. While this is disappointing, the good news is that advocates built a lot of support for portable screenings this year. We expect to see a new Fair Tenant Screening Act in 2015!
What can you do?
1) Keep spreading the word about this important policy area in person and on social media. Not sure how to advocate on Twitter and Facebook? Check out our Social Media 101 and Social Media 201 Google+ Hangouts.
2) Have tenant screening fees been a burden for you? Share your story with our Advocacy Coordinator, Denise: dmiller [at] ywcaworks [dot] org.