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Fair Tenant Screening Law and how it affects Washington DC Tenants

If you are making an application to rent an apartment, house or mobile home in Washington State you should be aware of the new Fair Tenant Screening Law which was passed in June 2012 affecting both landlords and tenants.

During the process of your application the landlord may choose to screen you. This means that he will obtain information about you including employment history, criminal records, civil court records, credit history and rental history. However due to the new law, the landlord must give you certain information before screening you and also limits how much the landlord can charge you for such screening. The law also makes provision for what you are able to do if you don’t agree with the information that the landlord obtains which subsequently causes your rental application to be rejected; and what you can do if the landlord doesn’t follow the new law.

What does the landlord have to do under the Fair Tenant Screening Law?

Before starting the screening process the landlord must put in writing to you the type of information he wants to look at and on what basis your application may be rejected or only accepted with certain conditions. For example, the landlord may tell you that he won’t accept tenants who have criminal convictions in which case there is little point in the screening going ahead if you have criminal convictions, since you won’t be accepted. The same applies if the landlord requires a co-signer if you have a low or bad credit score. The point of making it obligatory for the landlord to tell you this information before screening is that you won’t waste money on paying for the screening as frequently occurred before the new law was passed. All prospective tenants must be told in advance of screening the criteria that will need to be match in order for an application to be successful.

Consumer Reporting Agencies

Consumer reporting agencies are often used by landlords to obtain reports about prospective tenants’ background information. The reports produced by such consumer reporting agencies will include such details as criminal history, eviction records, credit score and any other relevant information about you. The Fair Tenant Screening Law states that if a landlord intends to use a consumer reporting agency he must provide you with written details of the name and address of such agency, advising you of your right to be given a free copy of the consumer report if the landlord rejects your application and of your right to dispute the accuracy of the information contained in the report. Verbally telling you this information is not sufficient, it must be given or posted to you in writing.

For more on credit scores read ourfree score check article

Can the Landlord charge me for screening?

Yes, but only if he has provided the aforementioned information in writing. He is not allowed to profit from the screening and can only charge you the actual costs of screening which might include phone calls to your present employers and time spent in contacting previous landlords, your bank etc. However, he cannot charge you more than a local screening service would ordinarily charge.

What happens if my application is rejected based on the screening report?

The landlord must put in writing to you the reason or reasons your application was rejected in the form of an “Adverse Action Notice”. This notice should state clearly what adverse action the landlord chose to take e.g. rejecting your application or only accepting it with certain conditions. Also clearly stated should be the reasons why the landlord chose to take adverse action such as information received from your bank, information from your employer or court records for example.

What if the Landlord doesn’t follow the requirements of the Fair Tenant Screening Act?

If the landlord doesn’t act within the law you can take him to court and the court may award you your costs, attorney fees and up to $100 in compensation.


free tenant screening

Of course landlords can charge tenants for screening. However, renters can safe on background checks and credit reports if landlord post property with rental platforms that do tenant screening for free. It could be beneficial for both parties. I like Experian service. And I know this platform https://rentberry.com/tenant-screening/ uses it as well.

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