Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights, announced earlier today that it has filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the California Attorney General regarding the practices of a new tenant blacklisting website, DoNotRentTo.com and its owner, Bluechip Group LLC.
DoNotRentTo.com refers to itself as "the National Tenant Reporting Company." The site offers its "members" (anyone who pays the annual fee of $29.99) access to what it calls its "bad tenant database". The site also allows any website visitor, whether a "member" or not, to make "free unlimited bad tenant postings without login."
The result is an unregulated tenant reporting system that, according to Tenants Together, violates the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, as well as parallel California laws. "This rogue website is operating as a consumer reporting company, but totally disregarding the rules that govern this type of operation," noted Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together. Because of the devastating impacts of a bad report, state and federal laws regulate companies that collect and disseminate reports on tenants. Among other requirements, these companies must provide tenants access to reports about them, as well as an opportunity to challenge inaccuracies.
Tenants Together's complaints about the website include the following:
The website allows anyone to enter anything about any tenant, with no screening to make sure that information posted about a tenant is accurate.
The website allows any person who pays the annual $29.99 fee to access personal information about tenants, without any effort to confirm that the person seeking the information is even a landlord, or intends to use the information for a legitimate purpose.
The website does not provide any way for tenants to request a copy of information provided about them, or to contest the accuracy of information in the reports.
The website provides access to partial social security numbers, partial driver's license numbers and other personal information that invades privacy and could facilitate identity theft.
It is unknown how large the database is, or how many landlords have used it to screen potential tenants.
Tenants Together accuses DoNotRentTo.com of operating in violation of numerous consumer protection laws, and predicts grave consequences for tenants if the site is allowed to continue operating in this manner. "We urge the FTC and the California Attorney General to 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."
For a PDF of the press release, click here.