By ALICE TRUONG
In New York City’s hypercompetitive rental market, it’s hard enough to find the perfect apartment. Harder still to put in a lease application, round up documents and ready deposit checks, only to be turned down for vague reasons.
A proposal in the financial overhaul now nearing passage in Congress may offer rejected renters a consolation prize: a free credit score.
A provision in the bill would give prospective renters access to a free copy of the credit score that a landlord or broker used to evaluate their application. Renters’ applications can be rejected based on what a landlord deems as poor or insufficient credit, but they rarely get to find out what that score is.
It will lead to more transparency in the housing market, Sen. Mark Udall, a sponsor of the provision, said in a statement. If a renter is denied housing because of their credit score, the landlord or rental agency will be required to give them their credit score for free, the Colorado Democrat said.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act already gives consumers a free copy of their credit report from each of the three credit-reporting bureaus annually.
Those reports don’t include a FICO score, which is what mortgage banks—and sometimes landlords—use to determine whether to extend a loan or grant a lease. Consumers may purchase their FICO scores separately.
In New York, brokers often run a National Risk Model score rather than a FICO score to gauge the probability that apartment candidates would pay their rent on time. Those scores also would have to be provided under the proposed law if used to deny a rental application.
Citing bad or unsatisfactory credit is one of the most common reasons potential renters are rejected, according to Emily Goldstein of Tenants and Neighbors, a tenant rights organization in Manhattan.
She said that by forcing landlords to give out these credit scores, they would be deterred from using discriminatory factors like race or age in their decisions of whether or not to rent to particular applicants.
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