CFPB Guidance Positively Impacts Screening Practices

Two advisory opinions intended to increase the accuracy of information used in application decisions.

By Joe Riter and Isabella Wilson |

2 minute read

In early 2024, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued two advisory opinions that empower consumers to address inaccuracies in resident screening reports more directly with consumer reporting agencies, ultimately increasing the accuracy of information housing providers use in application decisions.

These two advisory opinions build upon the Bureau’s commitments to the White House Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights which are intended to increase fairness in the rental market and further principles of fair housing. The opinions offer guidance on the application of current federal laws to consumer reporting agencies. Housing providers should be cognizant of these activities because of their downstream impacts to the industry and potential impacts to the resident screening process.

The first opinion focuses on background screening, establishing clear guidelines for consumer reporting agencies subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), reminding them that they may not report “outdated negative information—and that each negative item of information is subject to its own reporting period, the timing of which depends on the date of the negative item itself.” The advisory highlights that “a criminal charge that does not result in a conviction generally cannot be reported by a consumer reporting company beyond the seven-year period that starts at the time of the charge.”

Additionally, the second advisory opinion reconfirms the requirements that consumer reporting agencies should abide by when a consumer requests a copy of their report, also known as credit file disclosure. Under this guidance, consumers:

  • Only need to make a request for their report and provide proper identification;
  • Must be provided their complete file with clear and accurate information that is presented in a way an average person could understand;
  • Must be provided the information in a format that will assist them in identifying inaccuracies, exercising their rights to dispute any incomplete or inaccurate information, and understanding when they are being impacted by adverse information; and
  • Must be provided with the sources of the information in their file, including both the original and any intermediary or vendor source or sources.

Resident screening is a powerful tool in the rental industry that allows rental housing operators to screen applicants for eligibility purposes. As we shared in our comments to the CFPB and Federal Trade Commission’s Request for Input on screening, the federal government should work to ensure housing providers have access to screening tools and publicly available data to make informed housing decisions.

To learn more, please contact Joe Riter, NAA’s Senior Manager, Public Policy. Special thanks to Isabella Wilson, Legislative Analyst for assistance in co-authoring this note.