What Shouldn’t Be in a Background Check Report

June 12th, 2014 by Dodie

Nearly seven out of 10 employers run background checks, according to a 2012 background check survey from the Society for Human Resources Management. HR departments use employee background check to screen potential new hires in order to get a pool from which to interview. Managers use background screening to help decide which current employees to promote. Landlords use tenant screening to choose the most desirable tenants to fill vacancies.


Do employers and landlords have guidelines that they must adhere to?

Yes. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was enacted in 1970 and has been added in order to better protect consumers. Employers and landlords that use an outside agency to screen potential employees or tenants must first obtain written permission to obtain the credit report.

Landlords can use tenant screening to help choose the most qualified tenants for a vacancy. There are some online background check services that landlords can use at no expense to them. The tenant buys his own credit report and grants the landlord secure access. Other services use the tenant’s rental application release form to get the information needed for tenant screening. The landlord provides a set of decision-making criteria that are used to select attributes from the credit score to make a rental decision.

Some cities, such as the city of Dubuque, offer certification programs for property managers to help them identify quality tenants, write rental agreements, handle evictions and other property management issues. Check with the housing or police department to see if your city offers this service.

Employers and landlords have an obligation to be diligent in their use of the background check information they obtain because there could be mistakes in the report. Use a broad amount of data and don’t focus on only the negative. Use the information to locate patterns and positive things about an applicant.

Credit and background reporting companies should remove false or outdated information, but that does not always happen. Sometimes, the same offense is reported multiple times so it looks like several violations. Someone may be arrested for something and the charges are later dropped; that arrest should be removed immediately but is sometimes not.

Persons who use a background check or credit report must (a) have written permission, (b) inform the applicant of his rights, and (c) provide that applicant with a copy of the report and any adverse actions.

Federal, state and local laws vary and there are job-specific laws that may apply. It is wise to check with your company’s legal counsel if you are unsure of how you can use the information obtained.

There are some things that cannot be included in the background check or “consumer report.” According to FCRA, they are:

Bankruptcies after 10 years

Civil suits, civil judgments, and records of arrest, from date of entry, after seven years

• Paid tax liens after seven years

• Accounts placed for collection after seven years

• Any other negative information (except criminal convictions) after seven years

Potential employees or tenants who feel that an employer or landlord has violated the FCRA can sue in state or federal court and seek damages. Having a written screening, evaluation, and selection policy in place will ensure that everyone knows how your selections are made.

It may be well worth the investment to use a professional background check company to process your background checks. This service provider has the experience to know where to obtain the information you need and may prevent you from seeing data that could be in violation of the law.

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