The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has issued CFPB Bulletin 2021-03, reminding landlords, consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), and others of their obligations to accurately report rental and eviction information. Inaccurate rental and eviction information on a tenant screening report or a credit report can unfairly block a family from safe and affordable housing. As the federal eviction moratorium and other pandemic rental protections come to an end, the CFPB is seeking to protect families from being denied housing on the basis of inaccurate information.
“Errors in your tenant screening report shouldn’t hold you back from having a place to call home,” said CFPB Acting Director Dave Uejio. “For families already struggling to make ends meet, an inaccurate report can be the difference between homelessness or settling into a safe and affordable home. Landlords and consumer reporting agencies have clear obligations under federal law, regarding the accuracy of information reported about tenants, and to conduct timely investigations when consumers dispute information. They need to get this right. The CFPB will closely monitor their compliance, and we will use all the tools at our disposal including enforcement, to protect consumers during this critical time.”
Accuracy in consumers’ credit reports will help to increase rental application acceptances, support housing security, and promote a fair and equitable recovery. The CFPB is concerned that the end of the CDC eviction moratorium could mean both an increase in negative rental information in the consumer reporting system and an increase in consumers seeking rental housing. This combination could exacerbate existing problems with the accuracy of tenant-screening and other consumer reports.
Black, Hispanic, and Asian American renters are especially vulnerable, as they are nearly twice as likely as white renters to be behind on their rent, according to a CFPB analysis of U.S. Census Bureau housing data. They may also be at an increased risk for having someone else’s negative information erroneously included with theirs, given the relative lack of surname diversity within some communities, compared to within the white population.
The CFPB has stated that it intends to carefully inspect that landlords, property management companies, and debt collectors are furnishing accurate information to CRAs and complying with their dispute-handling obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The CFPB plans to pay particular attention to whether furnishers are reporting arrearages that include:
- Amounts already paid on behalf of a tenant through a government grant or relief program; and
- Fees or penalties prohibited by CARES Act section 4024(b) or other laws.
The bulletin also puts CRAs on notice that the CFPB will be looking at whether companies are:
- Following appropriate procedures to include only accurate rental information in individuals’ consumer reports.
- Reporting rental information that belongs to the consumer who is the subject of the report.
- Reporting accurate and complete eviction information, including having reasonable procedures to include the disposition of the eviction, prevent the inclusion of multiple entries for the same eviction action, and prevent the inclusion of eviction records that have been expunged or sealed.
- Properly investigating when consumers report inaccuracies.
Should the CFPB find CRAs or furnishers not meeting their obligations under the FCRA, the CFPB will take appropriate action to address violations and seek all appropriate corrective measures, including remediation of harm to consumers.
Click here to read more about CFPB Bulletin 2021-03.