Background Check Errors
Being a background check attorney in Annapolis, MD, I represent consumers who have credit report errors or background report errors. Has your employer or landlord taken adverse action against you because of your background report? Did the background report have errors?
Employers may perform a background check before hiring you. Landlords can run a background check before renting you an apartment or house. Employers and landlords may review your credit report, but you have to give them your permission first. Background checks may include information about your employment, driving, criminal, tenant, and credit history.
Traditional credit reports include information about your address, credit payment history, and public records, such as bankruptcies, judgments, and liens. Credit reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, and other companies who provide background information, sell your file to background check companies who, in turn, resell the information as a background report to employers and landlords. The employer’s use the reports to evaluate your job application and decide whether to hire you.
Employers may use the reports to decide whether to terminate you, promote you, or re-assign you, but employers must have your permission to review your report. Consumers commonly complain to us that they did not get a job because of incorrect criminal history contained in their file.
Also, I receive complaints from consumers who are unable to rent an apartment because of background report errors, such as inaccurate rental payment history or evictions. Landlords and management companies review your credit and background report to determine whether to rent or lease you an apartment or house. Background reports that have errors can keep you from getting housing.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates the use of background reports. Attorney Nathan Baney enforces the FCRA through civil lawsuits. Under the FCRA, employers and landlords must get your permission before pulling your credit report. If you do not get the job or the apartment because of information contained in your credit report, the FCRA triggers several duties the employer or landlord must follow. First, the employer or landlord must show you the report. Second, the employer or landlord must tell you how to get a copy of your report. You can request your free credit report so long as you request it within 60 days of receipt of the job or housing denial.
There’s more – before an employer or landlord can ask for background reports about you, they must tell you that they may use the information to make a decision whether to give you a job or housing. This notice requirement is independent of other employment or leasing documents, such as an employment or lease application. When an employer uses information from a credit report or other background report to deny your application for employment or promotion, the employer must give you a copy of the report and a document called “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act” before taking the adverse action. In other words, the employer cannot notify you that you did not get the job at the same time the employer tells you its decision was based on your credit report.
The credit report and summary of rights provide consumers with the opportunity to explain or dispute incorrect information in the credit file before the employer takes the adverse action. Consumers should send a dispute letter to the credit reporting agency who provided the inaccurate information. If the information is corrected, the credit reporting agency must send the updated report to the employer, but only if you ask the bureau to!
When an employer takes an adverse action against you based on information in a credit report, the employer must tell you either orally or in writing (electronic means is okay). The adverse action notice must include the following information:
- name, address and phone number of the company that supplied the credit report
- statement that the company that supplied the information didn’t make the decision to take the adverse action and can’t give you any specific reasons for it
- notice of your right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information in your credit report and to get an additional free credit report from the company that supplied the credit or other background information if you ask for it within 60 days
When a company provides an employer with a report that has negative public record information (tax liens, judgments, bankruptcies, or criminal convictions), the company either has to tell you that it provided the information to the employer or it has to take special steps to make sure the information is accurate.
If you receive notification from a company that has provided negative public record information to an employer or landlord, you should have a chance to correct it or clarify the inaccurate information before the adverse decision is made. This may help you get (or keep) your job!
When employers or credit reporting agencies do not comply with the FCRA, you can sue them for money damages, individually or in a class action lawsuit. Under the FCRA, employers and landlords may be held liable for the following violations:
- Failure to obtain an applicant’s permission before pulling credit report or other background report
- Failure to provide the employee or tenant with timely and adequate disclosures
- Failure to provide pre-adverse action notices to tenant applicants or employees
If you believe your employer, potential employer, or landlord violated the FCRA, you may be entitled to money damages and attorneys’ fees.