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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Dean Preston
April 10, 2013 415.495.8100
After Tenants Together filed a complaint with Federal Trade Commission about the tenant blacklisting service DoNotRentTo.com, the FTC has issued warning letters to the website operator and several similar tenant screening companies to comply with federal law. The letters are directed to The BlueChip Group LLC (www.donotrentto.com), M & R Rental Properties (www.badtenantlistings.com), The Landlord Protection Agency (www.thelpa.com), National Tenant Network (ntnonline.com), 123 Rent Inc. (therentersblacklist.com), and Tenancy Bureau Inc. (www.tenancybureau.us).
The FTC letter advises the recipients to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"). "This letter concerns your company's website, [insert URL], which provides tenant rental history reports. We want to make you aware of the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), a federal law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC" or "Commission"), so that you can ensure your website and practices are in compliance with the law."
The FTC letter stops short of accusing the recipients of violating the FCRA, despite ample evidence on the websites of practices harmful to tenants. "We welcome this development, but we would have preferred more timely and decisive action," said Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights. "Thousands of tenants continue to have their rights violated by these illegal blacklisting services. Warning letters are one thing. Enforcement actions are another. The FTC should shut violators like BlueChip down before they harm more innocent tenants."
Tenants Together filed a complaint in 2008 with the Federal Trade Commission regarding the practices of a then-new tenant blacklisting website, DoNotRentTo.com and its owner, Bluechip Group LLC. Tenants Together accused DoNotRentTo.com of operating in violation of numerous consumer protection laws, and predicted grave consequences for tenants if the site was allowed to continue operating in this manner. At the time, Preston warned of the need for prompt action, stating that the FTC should "investigate and take strong action against DoNotRentTo.com and its owner, BlueChip Group LLC. This needs to happen immediately, before more tenants are unfairly and illegally blacklisted."
Tenants Together pointed out that DoNotRentTo.com allowed any website visitor to make "free unlimited bad tenant postings without login" and provided access to partial social security numbers of tenants. The website also lacked any way for tenants to contest the accuracy of the information posted about them. "This rogue website is operating as a consumer reporting company, but totally disregarding the rules that govern this type of operation," noted Preston in 2008.
These websites have been allowed to continue operating, harming tenants on a daily basis. Tenants Together is urging the FTC to step up enforcement efforts without further delay.
California tenants who believe they have been victims of illegal tenant blacklisting practices are encouraged to contact Tenants Together's hotline at 1.888.495.8020 or file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.