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How Automated Background Checks Freeze Out Renters


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Samantha Johnson has lost count of the times she has been turned down for housing or work because of incorrect background reports.

The growing data economy and the rise of American rentership since the 2008 financial crisis have fueled a rapid expansion of the tenant screening industry, now valued at $1 billion.

Credit: Thomas Patterson

Burglary and domestic assault in Minnesota. Selling meth and jumping bail in Kentucky. Driving without insurance in Arkansas. Disorderly conduct. Theft. Lying to a police officer. Unspecified "crimes." Too many narcotics charges to count.

That's what the landlord for an apartment in St. Helens, Ore., saw when he ran a background check for Samantha Johnson, a prospective tenant, in 2018.

But none of the charges were hers.

The growing data economy and the rise of American rentership since the 2008 financial crisis have fueled a rapid expansion of the tenant screening industry, now valued at $1 billion. The companies produce cheap and fast — but not necessarily accurate — reports for an estimated nine out of 10 landlords across the country.

 

From The New York Times
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