Are Tenant Screening Apps Legal?

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With Google and social media, it’s now easier for anybody to keep tabs on an individual. Additionally, landlords can keep a check on their tenants by using certain apps. These tenant screening apps take background checks to another level. However, this technology also generates a lot of controversies.

For instance, some people believe that running a Tenant Criminal Background Check is illegal and discriminatory. However, it should be noted that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 does not list individuals with a criminal record among the protected classes.

The protected classes are:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Ethnic background
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Familial status

One exception to the Fair Housing Act, which allows the owner to have some elbow room to screen the applicants, is called the “Mrs. Murphy” provision. It means if the owner lives in the property with four or five units for rent, then it’s not covered by the FHA.

Benefits of Tenant Screening App

While some states frown upon the practice since it violates the privacy of the individual, there are several benefits of a screening app.

Here are some ways the app can help you:

  • Keep recidivists way. If the Tenant Criminal Background Check flags an applicant over unpaid rents or for theft, it will make sense for the landlord to reject their request to live on the property. You do not want to invite a potential headache in your building.
  • Do your part for the law. For example, a long-time fugitive turns up at your door and asks to rent a room. You run the screening app, and you find out that they are wanted for a pending crime. You can be a good citizen and call the police about a wanted criminal in your property.

According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 57% of the homeowners in the United States own their houses, while 31% are renting. On average, about 10% of the total properties in the country are still unoccupied.

However, it’s still very much a landlord’s market. What that means is that they set the rent and remain optimistic that somebody will meet their asking price. Another benefit of this is that they can choose their tenants. They can set very high standards for their tenants, knowing they have the pick of the litter.

Besides, your other tenants will love you for it. While everybody deserves a second chance, families with young kids would be very uncomfortable living in the same building with a registered sex offender, for example. It’s legally justified for the landlord to reject an applicant with a criminal background. It is their property, after all.

Of course, you do not give a blanket denial on all tenants with criminal background since that would tantamount to discrimination. For instance, depending on the definition, did you know that 1 in 3 Americans have a criminal record ranging from petty to grave? But the screening app will give you options. It’s now up to you whether or not to accept the tenant based on your personal assessment.

To summarize, using apps to run a criminal background check on the tenant is perfectly legal. You also have the right to reject anyone with a police record. It is within your power to protect your property. However, you have to be very careful as it’s a slippery slope. The Federal Housing Administration revised the rules in 2016 after acknowledging that if landlords have blanket authorities to reject tenant applications, they are likely to discriminate against African-Americans and Hispanics.