Often, in order to rent a property or apply for a job, people are required to authorize an investigation of their history.  This is often referred to as a “background check”, or, in the case of housing “tenant screening.”  Landlords and employers are generally allowed to perform these kinds of checks, as long as they obtain your written authorization and are using the report for a permissible purpose.

These kinds of checks often prioritize speed over accuracy.  A screening company may include broad search parameters in order to obtain the most information possibly related to the applicant.  Weeding out unrelated matches can be a time-consuming process, and can be costly to the background check company.  As a result, the unrelated matches may be left in the report and cause the employer or landlord to deny the application.  

The Fair Credit Reporting Act  (“FCRA”) requires background check companies and tenant screening services to take steps that are reasonable to insure the maximum possible accuracy in their reports.  If you have been denied for a job, for an apartment or rental property, or for credit based on inaccuracies in your credit report, you may have a right to pursue legal action for damages.  The FCRA shifts the burden of paying attorney’s fees to the defendant, meaning that, in most cases, a credit reporting attorney can provide help with no out of pocket cost to you.


If your rental, employment or credit application was denied based on incorrect information in your background check or tenant screening report, you should take the following steps to protect your legal rights

  • Keep a copy of all written correspondence with the employer, landlord or creditor.  If you speak with anyone by phone, keep a written call log of your discussions, including the date, time, name of the person you spoke to and a summary of the discussion.

  • You have a right to a written notice that your application has been denied.  That notice should include the name and contact information for the screening company that provided the information.

  • Request a copy of the report that was obtained by the employer or landlord directly with the screening or background check company.

  • Review the report carefully, and note any errors.  

  • Contact the screening or background check company in writing and notify them of the error(s). Some disputes can be processed online.   If you have documents or information to disprove the information, include copies with your dispute.  Do not send original documents.  If you mail your dispute, use certified mail and request a return receipt.

  • The screening company will have thirty days to review your dispute and respond.  Failure to respond on time, or failure to respond at all are grounds for a legal claim.  Refusal to correct or remove inaccurate information may also give rise to a legal claim.

  • If you are denied for other employment, housing or credit, while you are awaiting the results of your dispute, keep copies of any applications and denials you receive. 

  • Contact an experienced credit reporting attorney to discuss your legal rights.