Who May Run and Check Your Credit in California?

Homebuyers seeking a purchase or refinance mortgage, or people wanting to buy appliances on payment plans or using their credit cards, are among those who will have their credit reports checked.  The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requirements state who can look at or order your credit report.

Such people may include landlords, credit card issuers, car loan lenders, student loan lenders and insurance companies and government agencies.   However, at least ten states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) have passed laws prohibiting employers from pulling credit reports at all or restricting how and when employers may use them to make hiring or other job decisions.  According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, access is restricted to businesses or government agencies that meet the permissible purpose requirements.

Concerning landlords:  If a landlord has a property managed or listed by a Realtor with a written contract in place giving the broker permission, the broker may be allowed to run the credit of a prospective tenant.  Or, the Realtor can also assist the property owner by helping the landlord find a source for running credit (about $25), with action performed and the report reviewed by the landlord.   The Realtor may be doing all other agreed functions for renting, but the credit report responsibility lies with the landlord if not otherwise expressly allowed for in the contract.  It would be a good idea for landlords and tenants alike to find out what should be of concern to a landlord.  Landlords can check rental history, accounts, debts, foreclosures and general credit worthiness.  For individuals who experienced getting a notice of default and foreclosure, even though they had other good credit, they found it was not easy moving to a good rental property, and some found that getting a co-signer was necessary.

To find out what can be included in your credit report and other resource material, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Nolo contain additional information.  For California information on accessing a free annual credit report, see the California Office of the Attorney General.

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