What Landlords Have on You

Slate's If Then
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Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Hello Hi Laura Hi. Hi, it's Celeste earlier. This week I called Lauren Kirshner. She's an investigative reporter at the markup who loves to dig into official records and pages of data a couple of years ago. She took a close look at the algorithm that produces risk assessments in courtrooms. These risk assessments are used to help judges decide whether to grant bail or not they're based. On automated background checks and they produce a score that predicts how likely it is that an individual will commit a crime in the future we actually did a show on this earlier this year Lauren found that the risk assessment scores which are seen as objective are actually biased against black individuals. This year she discovered that the same technology is being used in a wholly different situation. We. got a tip from an attorney who had heard about a risk score given to tenants. That for being used not only in the private market for landlords, but also in public housing authorities and so I intrigued to learn about these tenant screening reports. I wanted to learn where they are being used and which companies were most common. Two simple questions that turned out to be very difficult to answer partly because there are so many companies doing background checks and partly because every company seems to use a different system to produce their reports. Lauren discovered that landlords are given an incredible amount of information about perspective tenants. Landlords have used credit reports for a long time, but these background checks go beyond your payment history in outstanding loans they can also list arrest records, traffic tickets, small claims, court filings, evictions, and Child Support History, and it takes all that information and compiles it and conveys it to the landlord, and sometimes the landlord getting tenant screening report will get the full information that has been compiled about this person who's applying for an apartment or sometimes they'll just get a risk or or thumbs up or thumbs down a recommendation that the landlord either accept or deny this person for their housing. If you get a thumbs down your often denied housing. It's that simple and that report can follow you wherever you go make it difficult to find anyone who will rent to you or give you a loan or a cell phone contract or a job. The kinds of decisions that these background checks are involved in a really high stakes decisions. You know if you have mistake on your credit report and you can't get a loan for a house that you want or if you have a mistake on your criminal background check and it looks like you're a felon and you can't find a place to live I, mean these are. These are really important moments in people's lives. This can be a problem even when the background checks are accurate but Lauren found these reports that decide whether you deserve housing are frequently wrong. Background. Checks are seriously flawed and no one seems to be regulating and industry that wields so much power over our lives.

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