August 17, 2016

Tenant Blacklists Stack the Deck Against Renters in an Already Unfair Equation

In a tight market, landlord blacklists, where owners are called out for sleazy–or worse–practices may have little impact if renters are desperate to find living quarters. But at least they have a choice. The New York Times reports that “blacklists” containing names of tenants who have run afoul of landlords in the past have created a bias against potential tenants to the point where the home-hunters–even those with stellar credit, a clean record and a perfectly good explanation–feel they have no chance of finding an apartment anytime soon. Going beyond background and credit checks, a database known to housing advocates and lawyers as the tenant blacklist provides prospective landlords throughout the country with a means to, as the Times puts it, "weed out risky tenants." The list, however, is filled with errors and cases in which, for example, tenants legally withheld rent due to unlivable conditions and later won their cases. But without explanation, the list can make renting an apartment an impossibility.
Is this even legal?

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