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WNYC: Tenant ‘Blacklists’ Make It Difficult to Rent

By Mirela Iverac

New Yorkers who end up in Housing Court can end up on a so-called tenant “blacklist” that can make it harder to find a new place to live.

The lists are kept by tenant screening companies with support from the court system itself — which sells the data to the companies. Landlords and management companies review those lists and often reject applicants who’ve been sued in housing court, even if they have a good credit score and meet income requirements.

That leaves some tenants who haven’t done anything wrong unable to find a place to live, according to James Fishman, a tenant lawyer who has filed class-action lawsuits against tenant screening companies.

“There are many reasons that tenants get sued in New York that have nothing to do with whether they are good tenants or not,” Fishman said. “In fact, a lot of the reasons have to do with whether they have a bad landlord or not.”

Landlords and brokers say the screening reports help them weed out deadbeat renters.

“There are professional tenants out there who over the years go from building to building, apartment to apartment, and skip out on the rent,” said Frank Ricci, director of government affairs at the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords.

Until 2012, the courts used to sell the names of tenants sued in housing court. After pressure from legislators, they changed their practice and now only sell index numbers for court cases. Tenant screening companies have adapted to the new rules by having contractors sit in the clerk’s office to match index numbers to the tenants’ names.

The two companies that currently buy index numbers are CoreLogic SafeRent and TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions — both national companies. They declined requests for interviews.

They pay the courts a $20,000 fee and $350 weekly to get daily updates. David Bookstaver, spokesman for the state courts, says the courts are simply selling public information to generate a small revenue stream.



David L. Lewis

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