How Tenant Screening Processes Influence Biased Rental Housing Exclusion

How does the information a prospective tenant provides in their rental application influence a landlord’s decision to offer a rental unit? Often tenant screening processes leverage public databases such as credit scores as well as criminal records and eviction records to produce a tenant report but how landlords use the information within these reports to construct their decisions is understudied. 

In a new paper for Housing Policy Debate, DUSP’s Wonyoung So utilizes simulated tenant screening reports to examine how landlords use the data within the reports. So demonstrates how landlords conflate tenant record with outcomes, such as an eviction filling equating to an executed eviction, and their reliance on racially biased records creates an unjust disproportionate exclusion of people of color from rental housing. 

“Sealing and/or expunging housing court data on evictions at the point of filing could be an immediate action which would help address the bias documented in my article," said So. "Some states and municipalities have already passed and/or proposed these measures. For a more long term solution to racial bias in access to rental housing, we need to think about creating a federally-owned and managed eviction database with strict access control."

Read So’s "Which Information Matters? Measuring Landlord Assessment of Tenant Screening Reports"

Learn more about So’s ongoing project, Landlord Tech Watch