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Tenant Screening: Your Rights

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
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6302EN - Read this publication if you are looking for an apartment or house to rent. This publication explains a state law regarding tenant screening.

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Should I read this?

Yes, if you are looking for an apartment, house, or mobile home to rent. If you apply for a house or an apartment, the landlord may "screen" you. We explain:

  • What the landlord must tell you about the screening process

  • How much the landlord can charge you for screening expenses

  • What you can do if you disagree with any of what the landlord learned from screening you

  • What you can do if the landlord does not follow the law

*STOP HERE if you have an eviction in your past and want to know how to keep the screening company from using that past eviction against you. Get our packet called How to Stop a Landlord from Denying your Housing Application Because of an Eviction.

What is the law?

*You can read the law here: RCW 59.18.257. RCW stands for Revised Code of Washington, Washington's state law. 

The law says a landlord must let you know the following before you hand in your application:

  • What types of information the landlord will get as part of the screening

  • What information from the screening may cause the landlord to reject your application

  • If the landlord uses a consumer report:

  • the consumer reporting agency's name and address

  • your right to a free copy of the consumer report if the landlord denies your application

  • your right to dispute the report's accuracy of information

The landlord must post this info OR give it to you in writing. Telling you this info verbally is not enough.

Can the landlord charge me to screen me?

Yes, but:

  • only if s/he lets you know the above, in writing AND

  • only for the actual costs of any screening

The landlord may not charge you any more than what a local screening service would normally charge. This can include

  • costs of long distance phone calls

  • costs for time spent calling your past and present landlords, employers, and banks

The landlord turned down my tenant application based on something he found in screening me. What can I do?

The landlord must give you a written notice stating his/her reasons. A blank notice at the end of this publication shows what it should look like. It must look "substantially" like our sample form. It must have the same information our sample form would have.

The landlord did not tell me beforehand what information she would use to screen me. But she turned my tenant application down because of the information she got from screening me. What can I do?

You can sue the landlord. The court could award you up to one hundred dollars, plus court costs and attorneys' fees.

What if I need legal help?

CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, centralized intake, advice and referral service for low-income people seeking free legal assistance with civil legal problems. 

  • Outside King County: Call 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:15 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. 

  • King County: Call 211 for information and referral to an appropriate legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. You may also call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number, 1-877-211-WASH (9274). You can also get information on legal service providers in King County through 211's website at www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.

  • Persons 60 and Over: Persons 60 or over may call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of income.

Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired callers can call CLEAR or 211 using the relay service of their choice.

211 and CLEAR will conference in interpreters when needed at no cost to callers. 

Free legal education publications, videos and self-help packets covering many legal issues are available at www.washingtonlawhelp.org.


 
6302EN

This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities.  It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. 
This information is current as of September 2016.

© 2016 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014.
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)

 



 

ADVERSE ACTION NOTICE

Your Name
Your Address
Your City/State/Zip Code

This notice is to inform you that your application has been [landlord must check one]:

_____ Rejected

_____ Approved with conditions:

_____ Residency requires an increased deposit

_____ Residency requires a qualified guarantor

_____ Residency requires last month's rent

_____ Residency requires an increased monthly rent of $........

_____ Other:

Adverse action on your application was based on the following [landlord must check all that apply]:

_____ Information contained in a consumer report (The prospective landlord must include the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting agency that furnished the consumer report that contributed to the adverse action.)

_____ The consumer credit report did not contain sufficient information

_____ Information received from previous rental history or reference

_____ Information received in a criminal record

_____ Information received in a civil record

_____ Information received from an employment verification

Dated this _____ day of __________, 20 _____

Agent/Owner Signature


 

6302EN


This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities.  It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. 
This information is current as September 2016.

© 2016 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014

(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)
Last Review and Update: Sep 06, 2016
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