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Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

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Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:01 pm

Note: this thread will be read-only for official information relating to the Class Action law suit on Tenant Blacklisting. Forum members may start separate threads to discuss the issue. If there's significant interest or traffic, I might open a special forum just for this issue.

[ April 02, 2006, 10:02 PM: Message edited by: TenantNet ]
Last edited by TenantNet on Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Please Read - Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:04 pm

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

WHITE AND JACKSON-DANIELS, ET AL. V. FIRST ADVANTAGE SAFERENT, INC., CIVIL CASE NO. 04 CV 1611

SUMMARY NOTICE OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT

TO: ANYONE WHO WAS SUED IN HOUSING COURT IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK BETWEEN FEBRUARY 26, 1994 AND
MARCH 16, 2006

READ THIS NOTICE CAREFULLY IT COULD AFFECT YOUR RIGHTS

If you were sued in Housing Court in the City of New York between February 26, 1994 and March 16, 2006, you should be aware of the Proposed Settlement of a class action lawsuit that alleged various claims arising of out the purported inaccurate reporting of the statuses of such Housing Court cases by First Advantage SafeRent, Inc. ("FAS"). FAS denies the allegations.

The Class consists of all individuals who were a defendant or respondent in a lawsuit commenced in a New York City Housing Court and were listed between February 26, 2001 and March 16, 2006 in FAS's court records database concerning such lawsuits ("the Class"). Data in FAS's database was allegedly deleted after seven (7) years, thus if you were sued between February 26, 1994 and March 16, 2006, you are potentially a member of the Class.

If the Proposed Settlement is approved, FAS will institute certain changes to its systems and processes, shall establish a fund of $1.9 million to pay up to $100 to individuals about whom FAS issued certain reports and/or to provide money to increase consumer and landlord awareness of the tenant screening process and their rights and obligations under the law.

At the settlement hearing, Plaintiffs' Co-Lead Settlement Counsel shall apply to the Court for an award of reasonable attorneys' fees in the amount of $990,000.00, and for $75,000.00 as reimbursement for reasonable costs and expenses. Also, subject to Court approval, Plaintiff, Adam White, will apply to be paid $15,000 and Plaintiff, Dera Jackson-Daniels, $5,000, for their service as Class Representatives. These Payments, if approved, would not reduce the amount available from the $1.9 million fund to pay individual Class members.

If you believe you are a member of the Class, you have these options:

- You can remain in the Class and do not need to do anything.

- You can exclude yourself from the Settlement process.

- You can object to the Settlement and/or the Application for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses and Payments to the Class Representatives. You may (but need not) choose to hire, at your own expense, an attorney to represent you for this purpose.

To learn more about your rights under the Proposed Settlement, you can see and download the settlement agreement and related documents at www.tenantreportsettlement.com or call the toll free helpline number at 1-888-404-0855.

You may request that a copy be
sent to you by contacting:

Tenant Report Settlement
The Garden City Group Inc.
Claims Administrator
P.O. Box 9000 #6374
Merrick, NY 11566-9000.

You may also look at the file for this case, including the Proposed Settlement, during regular business hours at the Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007-1312.

PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THE COURT FOR INFORMATION

1-888-404-0855
www.tenantreportsettlement.com
(website expected to be up around 4/3/06)
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Re: Please Read - Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:14 pm

A copy of the proposed order (PDF format) may be viewed at:

http://tenant.net/alerts/blacklisting/blacklisting_order.pdf
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Re: Please Read - Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:16 pm

A copy of the publication notice (text is above) for newspaper publication in PDF format can be viewed at:

http://tenant.net/alerts/blacklisting/white%20publication%20notice.pdf

[ April 02, 2006, 10:18 PM: Message edited by: TenantNet ]
Last edited by TenantNet on Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Please Read - Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:24 pm

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Re: Please Read - Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Mon Apr 03, 2006 5:41 pm

Tenant Report Settlement Website is now up. Go to:
http://www.tenantreportsettlement.com/
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Re: Please Read - Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Mon Apr 03, 2006 5:52 pm

Claim verification form:

http://www.tenantreportsettlement.com/poc.pdf

Questions:
http://www.tenantreportsettlement.com/faq.php3

Court Documents:
http://www.tenantreportsettlement.com/court.php3

Important Dates

5/16/06 - Proof of Claim Form must be received by the Claims Administrator postmarked no later than May 16, 2006

5/16/06 - Any request for exclusion from the class must be received by the claims administrator postmarked no later than May 16, 2006.

5/16/06 - Claimants who wish to object to the settlement must file with the court and serve on counsel for the parties a written statement objecting to the settlement and a written notice of intention to appear at the Fairness Hearing and object no later than June 16, 2006.

6/16/06 – The Fairness Hearing will be held at the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007-1312.
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Re: Please Read - Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:07 am

Here's the Press Release on the Blacklisting Class Action settlement:

April 3, 2006

Settlement Agreement Filed in Tenant “Blacklisting” Class Action

A preliminary settlement agreement with far reaching benefits to New York City tenants has been filed in a federal class action brought against First American Registry, Inc. (“FAR”)) (now known as First Advantage SafeRent, Inc.) the nation’s largest tenant screening agency. The suit (White v. First American Registry, Inc., Docket No. 04 CV 01611) (LAK) was brought in March 2004 in the Southern District of New York federal court on behalf of tenants who had been sued in the New York City Housing Court and it alleged that FAR had violated the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act by issuing thousands of reports to prospective landlords which included inaccurate, misleading and incomplete information about Housing Court eviction cases. As a result of those reports, tens of thousands of tenants may have been “blacklisted” by prospective landlords who refused to rent to them.

The suit challenged FAR’s practice of routinely failing to include the outcome of eviction cases in their reports to prospective landlords. Very few of the almost 300,000 eviction cases brought each year in the New York City Housing Court actually result in an eviction, or even a finding of wrongdoing by a tenant. By failing to include the outcome of such cases in its reports, the suit alleged, FAR caused damage to tenants whose cases were dismissed, discontinued or withdrawn. Numerous eviction cases are brought in New York City that are baseless, particularly against rent regulated tenants.

The settlement, if approved by the Court at a hearing scheduled for June 16, includes payment of up to $1.9 million dollars to a class of 35,000 tenants who were the subject of an inaccurate FAR report. In addition, FAR agreed to dramatically change its procedures. The following is a summary of the major changes:

o Reports will include the actual disposition of all eviction cases;

o Reports will highlight the absence of any activity for at least 12 months in eviction cases abandoned by landlords;

o FAR will expunge cases from its database that were found to be without merit or which were brought in error;

o Reports will contain a prominent notice advising prospective landlords that the fact an eviction proceeding was brought does not represent an adverse disposition or that the tenant was evicted.

A complete summary of the settlement can be found at www.tenantreportsettlement.com

The plaintiff’s counsel believe that this settlement sets a new standard in the protection of tenants from misleading and inaccurate credit reports.

James B. Fishman, one of their counsel stated,

“Blacklisting presents an extremely serious problem for tenants, particularly those living in rent regulated apartments. The threat of becoming blacklisted has a chilling effect on the ability of tenants to exercise their rights for fear that doing so could cause them to be sued in an eviction case. The settlement of this lawsuit provides significant relief to tenants facing such harms.”

Seth Lesser, another of the plaintiff’s counsel said,

“I believe this case puts the close on a course of business that we believe to not just be illegal under law but which was unseen, unknown and perniciously harmful to New York tenants.”

Stacy Canan, an attorney with AARP, noted that “blacklisting of older tenants, particularly those living of fixed incomes, is especially injurious because those tenants are already facing added difficulties when trying to rent an apartment compared to their younger counterparts."

The plaintiffs were represented by James B. Fishman of Fishman & Neil, LLP, Seth R. Lesser and Andrew P. Bell of Locks Law Firm, PLLC, both of New York City, and Stacy J. Canan of AARP Foundation in Washington, D.C.

* * *
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Re: Please Read - Tenant Blacklisting Class Action Lawsuit

Postby TenantNet » Thu May 04, 2006 8:32 am

Here's a Spanish version of the Blacklisting Class Action notice. A PDF is available at:
http://tenant.net/alerts/blacklisting/publication_s.pdf

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

WHITE AND JACKSON-DANIELS, ET AL. V. FIRST ADVANTAGE SAFERENT, INC., CIVIL CASE NO. 04 CV 1611

NOTIFICACIÓN RESUMIDA DE ARREGLO DE DEMANDA CONJUNTA

A: TODAS LAS PERSONAS QUE FUERON DEMANDADAS EN EL TRIBUNAL DE LA VIVIENDA DE LA CIUDAD DE NUEVA YORK DURANTE EL PERIODO COMPRENDIDO ENTRE EL 26 DE FEBRERO DE 1994 Y EL 16 DE MARZO DE 2006

LEA LA PRESENTE NOTIFICACIÓN ATENTAMENTE; PODRÍA AFECTAR SUS DERECHOS.

Si fue demandado en el Tribunal de la Vivienda de la Ciudad de Nueva York durante el período comprendido entre el 26 de febrero de 1994 y el 16 de marzo de 2006, debería informarse sobre una propuesta de arreglo de un juicio de demanda conjunta que aleg diversas reclamaciones originadas por los presuntos informes inexactos proporcionados por First Advantage SafeRent, Inc. ("FAS") sobre la situación de dichas causas ante el Tribunal de la Vivienda. FAS niega tales alegaciones.

El Grupo de la demanda conjunta está compuesto por todas las personas que fueron demandadas o apeladas en un juicio iniciado en el Tribunal de la Vivienda de la Ciudad de Nueva York y fueron incluidas en una lista en la base de datos de los sumarios de FAS en el Tribunal con relación a dichos juicios ("el Grupo") durante el período comprendido entre el 26 de febrero de 2001 y el 16 de marzo de 2006. Los datos en la base de datos de FAS fueron presuntamente borrados después de siete (7) años; por lo tanto, si usted fue demandado entre el 26 de febrero de 1994 y el 16 de marzo de 2006, es posible que sea un miembro del Grupo.

Si se aprueba el Arreglo Propuesto, FAS realizará ciertos cambios en sus sistemas y métodos de procesamiento, establecerá un fondo de $1.9 millón para pagar hasta $100 a cada una de las personas sobre las cuales FAS emitió ciertos informes y/o para proporcionar dinero para incrementar el nivel de conciencia de consumidores y arrendadores con respecto al proceso de selección de inquilinos y a sus derechos y obligaciones de acuerdo con la ley.

En la audiencia del arreglo, el Coasesor Legal Principal del Arreglo de los Demandantes peticionará ante el Tribunal el otorgamiento de honorarios razonables de abogados por la suma de $990,000.00, y en carácter de reembolso por costos y gastos razonables la suma de $75,000.00. Asimismo, sujeto a la aprobación del Tribunal, los Demandantes Adam White y Dera Jackson-Daniels solicitarán el pago de $15,000 y $5,000 respectivamente, por sus servicios como representantes del grupo. Si estos pagos se aprueban, no reducirán el monto disponible del fondo de $1.9 millón para pagar a cada uno de los miembros del grupo.

- Si usted cree que es un miembro del Grupo, tiene las opciones siguientes:

- Puede permanecer en el Grupo, en cuyo caso no necesita tomar ninguna acción.

- Puede excluirse voluntariamente del procedimiento del Arreglo.

- Puede objetar el Arreglo y/o la Solicitud de Honorarios y Gastos de abogados y los pagos a los Representantes del Grupo. Para ese propósito, si lo desea (aunque no es necesario), puede contratar un abogado que lo represente, que deberá pagar de su propio bolsillo.

Para obtener más información sobre sus derechos de acuerdo con el arreglo propuesto, puede ver y bajar el convenio del arreglo y documentos relacionados con el mismo en el sitio www.tenantreportsettlement.com o llamar gratis a la línea de asistencia al 1-888-404-0855. Si lo desea, puede solicitar que se le envíe una copia comunicándose con: Tenant Report Settlement, The Garden City Group, Inc., Claims Administrator, P.O. Box 9000 #6374, Merrick, NY 11566-9000. También puede consultar el expediente de esta causa, inclusive el arreglo propuesto, en la Oficina del Secretario, Tribunal Federal de primera instancia del Distrito Sur de Nueva York, Palacio de Justicia de los Estados Unidos Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007-1312, durante el horario normal de oficinas.

TENGA A BIEN NO COMUNICARSE CON EL TRIBUNAL PARA OBTENER INFORMACIÓN

1-888-404-0855 www.TenantReportSettlement.com
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Blacklisting Class Action Suit update

Postby TenantNet » Sat Jun 24, 2006 8:43 am

We received the following from James B. Fishman, attorney for the plaintiff in the class action Blacklisting matter:

The judge did not approve or deny approval of the proposed settlement of the tenant blacklisting class action. Instead, he gave the parties 30 days to go back to the bargaining table and see if we can revise certain provisions that provide stronger programmatic changes in the defendant's business practices. The plaintiffs will re-negotiate the in accordance with the judge's instructions. If a better settlement agreement is reached it will be presented to the judge for approval. If not, we will continue to litigate the case at trial.
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Postby TenantNet » Tue Feb 06, 2007 12:37 pm

from James B. Fishman, tenant attorney:

Attached is the complete list of companies that are currently receiving Housing Court electronic data from OCA (Office of Court Administration); if you resolve a case with a stip that provides for the deletion of the case from any tenant screening bureau, or if its agreed the case was brought in error or get a finding it was baseless, send a certified copy of the order to each one on the list with a direction that it be deleted. There's no certainty it actually will be but you never know.


The PDF file is here or http://tenant.net/alerts/blacklisting/O ... ribers.pdf
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Blacklisting Settlement Order

Postby TenantNet » Fri Mar 09, 2007 10:52 am

Case 1:04-cv-01611-LAK Document 162 Filed 03/07/2007

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x
ADAM WHITE, et ano.,
Plaintiffs,

-against- - 04 Civ. 1611 (LAK)

FIRST AMERICAN REGISTRY, INC., et ano.,
Defendants.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

LEWIS A. KAPLAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs brought this putative class action against defendants First American Registry and First Advantage SafeRent, Inc. for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act[fn1] (“FCRA”), the New York Fair Credit Reporting Act[fn2] (“NYFCRA”), and Section 349 of the New York General Business Law. They contend that defendants lack reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of the consumer reports they furnish to their customers, which, in this case, are New York City landlords. The matter now is before the Court on plaintiffs’ motions for (1) class certification and approval of a settlement and (2) an award of attorneys’ fees and other relief.

Class Certification

The parties agree that the following class should be certified:

All persons who are listed, or who were listed from February 26, 2001 to March 16, 2006 in Defendant First Advantage SafeRent, Inc.’s RegistryCheck™ database as a tenant, occupant, respondent, defendant or other similar categorization in a proceeding commenced in the Civil Court of the City of New York, Housing Part. Excluded from the Class is Defendant, any entity in which defendant has a controlling interest, and any of its subsidiaries, affiliates, and officers, directors, employees and agents as well as any person or entity who is named in any such proceeding as a landlord.


Although I previously denied certification on the ground that plaintiff White was not an adequate representative, a new plaintiff has been joined. I now am satisfied that each of the requirements of Rule 23 is satisfied and so certify the proposed class.

The Settlement

This lawsuit arises by reason of the nature of defendants’ business, which consists of selling landlords the opportunity to consult a list of individuals who have been involved in landlord-tenant litigation. As defendants doubtless well understand,[fn3] risk averse landlords are all too willing to use defendants’ product as a blacklist, refusing to rent to anyone whose name appears on it regardless of whether the existence of a litigation history in fact evidences characteristics that would make one an undesirable tenant. Thus, defendants have seized upon the ready and cheap availability of electronic records to create and market a product that can be, and probably is, used to victimize blameless individuals. The problem is compounded by the fact that the information available to defendants from the New York City Housing Court (“NYCHC”) is sketchy in the best of cases and inaccurate and incomplete in the worst. Any failure by defendants to ensure that the information they provide is complete, accurate, and fair heightens the concern – and there has been ample reason for heightened concern.


Against that background, the parties propose to settle the case for both programmatic and monetary relief.

The programmatic relief would include principally the following:

• Defendants’ reports of summary non-payment proceedings indicating “Case Filed” in which there has been no disposition for 12 months as reported by the NYCHC would contain a note indicating that there has been no disposition within 12 months and that proceedings in which no disposition has been obtained within 1 year after a default are subject to dismissal.

• Defendants’ reports would contain a note indicating that the filing of a case does “not mean that an applicant was evicted from an apartment or was found to owe rent. Lawsuits may be filed in error or lack merit.”

• Defendants would improve their customer service in a variety of ways. On the monetary side, the settlement proposes creation of a Class Settlement Fund of $1,900,000 and payment by defendants’ insurer of up to $1,065,000 in fees and expenses to plaintiffs’ attorneys. Settlement expenses and proposed payments to the two named plaintiffs totaling $20,000 would be paid out of the $1.9 million, with the balance applied to pay each class member who submits a timely and proper claim $100 or, if the total of such claims exceeds the available balance, a pro rata reduced amount. Any part of the $1.9 million left after paying the settlement expenses, the named plaintiffs, and the individual class members would be donated to appropriate governmental and/or charitable entities “to further the goal of increasing awareness of tenant screening and the duties and obligations under” pertinent laws.

A court confronted with a proposed class action settlement is called upon to determine whether the settlement is “fair, adequate, and reasonable” to class members,[fn4] a standard that includes both procedural and substantive components.[fn5] Assessing procedural fairness requires attention to such matters as the negotiation history and adequacy of class representation. Factors pertinent to substantive fairness are included among those set out in City of Detroit v. Grinnell Corp.:[fn6]

(1) the complexity, expense and likely duration of the litigation; (2) the reaction of the class to the settlement; (3) the stage of the proceedings and the amount of discovery completed; (4) the risks of establishing liability; (5) the risks of establishing damages; (6) the risks of maintaining the class action through the trial; (7) the ability of the defendants to withstand a greater judgment; (8) the range of reasonableness of the settlement fund in light of the best possible recovery; [and] (9) the range of reasonableness of the settlement fund to a possible recovery in light of all the attendant risks of litigation.”[fn7]


Moreover, the settlement court must assess the fairness of a proposed settlement in a practical way on the basis of reasonably available information. It should not attempt to approximate a litigated determination of the merits of the case[fn8] lest the process of determining whether to approve a settlement simply substitute one complex, time consuming and expensive litigation for another.

I am troubled by this settlement. It leaves defendants’ business model essentially intact. While there will be very modest improvements, the potential for abuse quite plainly remains. The fact that defendants are willing, indeed anxious, to engage in activities that are bound to harm innocent people is distressing. Moreover, while this litigation has been hard-fought, and I do not impugn anyone’s motives, the structure of the deal does not put my mind entirely at ease. If approved as proposed, plaintiffs’ counsel would receive over $1 million. The two named plaintiffs would receive a total of $20,000 above and beyond anything to which they would be entitled as class members. Individual class members, for all practical purposes, would receive nothing of substantial monetary value. Defendants would be rid of a troublesome and embarrassing lawsuit for programmatic consideration that costs them little and economic consideration that at best would be a small multiple of the legal fees required to litigate the case to conclusion.

Nevertheless, substantial factors point in favor of approval. To begin with, I acknowledge that my discomfort stems in part from defendants’ business model, which in and of itself is not unlawful, however distasteful and deserving of legislative attention it may be. Notice has been widely disseminated, yet there have been only 21 opt-outs from a class of over 35,000 people. There has been only one objector. It is not clear that plaintiffs could obtain greater programmatic relief even if they prevailed. The litigation would be difficult and costly.

Accordingly, in all the circumstances, I have concluded that the basic terms of the settlement, as amended most recently, should be approved. I do not, however, see any reason to approve the additional payments to the individual plaintiffs. This is especially true of Mr. White, who was rejected as an adequate class representative. Indeed, approving these proposed payments, in the context of this case, would create an incentive for other representatives to act in a manner inconsistent with the interests of other classes.

Attorneys’ Fees

Plaintiffs’ counsel seek an award of $990,000 in attorneys’ fees and $75,000 in expenses against total expenses of $80,084.18.

Counsel asserts that they devoted 1,900 hours to this case through the filing of the initial motion for approval of the settlement. They claim a lodestar of $836,318.75. I accept that as reasonable. I see no reason for a multiplier. In addition, I am aware that plaintiffs’ counsel subsequently have devoted additional efforts to the matter in seeking approval of the settlement, which in my judgment are worth an additional $25,000.

Conclusion

Plaintiffs’ motion to approve the settlement as amended [docket item 148] is granted save that the proposed payments to the individual plaintiffs are not approved. Plaintiffs’ motion for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses [docket item 149] is granted to the extent that they shall recover attorneys’ fees in the amount of $861,318.75 plus expenses in the amount of $75,000 for a total of $936,318.75.

SO ORDERED.
Dated: March 7, 2007
Lewis A. Kaplan
United States District Judge


1 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.

2 N.Y. GEN. BUS. LAW. §§ 380 to 380-t (McKinney 1996 & Supp. 2005).

3 The use of the name First Advantage SafeRent 3 above evidences this understanding.

4 In re NASDAQ Market-Makers Antitrust Litig., 187 F.R.D. 465, 473 (S.D.N.Y. 1998).

5 E.g., Malchman v. Davis, 706 F.2d 426, 433 (2d Cir.1983); see D'Amato v. Deutsche Bank, 236 F.3d 78, 85-86 (2d Cir.2001).

6 495 F.2d 448 (2d Cir.1974), abrogated on other grounds by Goldberger v. Integrated Res., Inc., 209 F.3d 43 (2d Cir.2000).

7 Id. at 463.

8 See West Virginia v. Chas. Pfizer & Co., 440 F.2d 1079, 1085 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 871 (1971).
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Tenant Screening Agency Settles FTC Charges

Postby TenantNet » Tue Nov 09, 2010 8:15 am

Tenant Screening Agency Settles FTC Charges: Failed to Respond to Consumers’ Requests for Their Files or Investigate Disputes

from http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/02/saferent.shtm

A tenant screening agency that rejected consumers’ requests for their files and failed to recheck information on their consumer reports after they had disputed it has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated federal law. The settlement order requires the company to pay a $100,000 civil penalty and bars future violations.

According to the FTC, the tenant screening company compiles reports that landlords use to assess potential renters. These reports list tenant evictions, lease and payment information, and criminal history records. When consumers faxed the company requests for their files or notices disputing the information in their files, instead of fulfilling the requests, as the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires, the company allegedly advised them that they would have to mail their requests. Under the FCRA, consumers are entitled to quick responses to their requests, especially because delays can cause them to lose out on a place they are hoping to rent.

In addition to imposing the civil penalty, the settlement order requires First Advantage SafeRent, Inc. to disclose the contents of the consumer’s file when the consumer requests it, and to investigate the accuracy of information in a report when a consumer disputes it.

The Commission vote to refer the complaint and stipulated final order to the Department of Justice for filing was 4-0. The documents were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. Stipulated court orders are for settlement purposes only and do not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Stipulated orders are subject to court approval and have the force of law when signed by the judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2674
STAFF CONTACT:
Katherine White
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2878

(FTC File No. 0823016)
(First Advantage SafeRent)
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Tenant Sues to Stay Off List of Tenants Who Are Sued

Postby TenantNet » Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:56 am

Tenant Sues to Stay Off List of Tenants Who Are Sued
New York Times
November 2, 2011, 1:45 pm
By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS

James Whelan has a little piece of every New York tenant’s dream: a rent stabilized apartment. It’s a quiet one-bedroom on the Upper East Side where he has lived for 17 years, and it costs him less than $1,500 a month.

But Mr. Whelan’s landlord, a limited liability company, says that it needs the apartment for a relative of one of the principals, and it is trying to get him out. And if the landlord takes Mr. Whelan to court, Mr. Whelan may end up on a list of troublesome tenants who have been sued for eviction. Even if he wins the case.

So on Monday, Mr. Whelan pre-emptively filed a suit (see also below) in state court to keep his name off those tenant screening lists. If he wins, the practice of collecting and selling those names in New York may have to be halted entirely, his lawyer said.

The New York State Office of Court Administration sells to private companies the names of everyone who is sued in housing court for eviction on the very day the case is put on the calendar. Those companies then compile the information and sell it to landlords looking to avoid difficult or irresponsible tenants.

But those screening lists do not make a distinction between renters who ultimately win their cases (perhaps they withheld rent because they had no heat) and those who lose (say, they bought some nice jewelry instead of paying their landlord what they owed).

Mr. Whelan’s lawyer, James B. Fishman, says this practice has a chilling effect on tenants’ rights, as some people opt to move out rather than face their landlord in court and risk being blacklisted for years. (Companies that curate these lists are supposed to purge names after seven years, but some are notoriously sloppy.)

“The only way that Mr. Whelan can challenge the good faith intentions of his landlord is to challenge a lawsuit,” Mr. Fishman said. “But you don’t ever reach the good faith issue until you’re sued. It’s a Catch-22.”

On Monday, Justice Eileen A. Rakower of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan temporarily blocked the distribution of Mr. Whelan’s information, pending the next court date in a few weeks.

The housing court calendar information is one of several kinds of data sold by the state court system, including city- and state-level civil court information. The names of tenants sued by landlords are contained in a “data dump” of all housing court information that sells for $20,000 for the first download and $350 for weekly updates.

“There’s a lot of public information out there that when people want it in this form, there’s a fee to cover costs,” said David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration. Mr. Bookstaver said he could not comment on Mr. Whelan’s suit because it is pending litigation.

Joseph Strasburg, the president of the Rent Stabilization Association, a trade group representing landlords, said that it might make sense to modify the tenant data that is sold so that it notes whether the tenant won the case.

“I don’t have a problem with providing more information as to the disposition of a case,” Mr. Strasburg said. “I do have a problem with precluding using it as a tool.”

He said that the tenant data was important in helping landlords avoid what he called “professional tenants” ­ those who immediately stop paying rent after they move in and just wait to be evicted, a process that takes months.

If Mr. Whelan’s landlord does take him to court, Mr. Fishman said, it may find the case quickly dismissed because private companies cannot reclaim a stabilized apartment for family members the way an individual can. But just being sued is enough to make the future difficult.

“They’ll put me on a blacklist,” said Mr. Whelan, 52, a limousine driver who has worked as a real estate broker. “If you’re renting an apartment, they check that out. And if you’ve been to housing court, you’re not going to get the apartment.”

His lawyer, Mr. Fishman, said: “The state gives tenants lots of rights, but then the state participates in a process that takes away all those rights. If you can’t assert those rights, you might as well not have them.”

Andy Newman contributed reporting.
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Courts Will Stop Selling Information that Landlords Use in '

Postby TenantNet » Fri Apr 27, 2012 1:56 pm

Courts Will Stop Selling Information that Landlords Use in 'Tenant Blacklists'
http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninsca ... ll_sto.php
Village Voice
by Sam Levin
April 26, 2012

Some good news today for those of you who pick fights with your landlords, or who are harassed by them for no good reason: New York courts are going to stop selling your names to companies that make it harder for you to secure your next apartment.

This policy change in the New York State Unified Court System is going after a phenomenon called "tenant blacklisting," where landlords basically reject potential tenants whose names are on a list, which says they have been parties in housing court actions. These lists don't say what they've done, or what the situation was, or if the tenant brought the landlord to court, or visa-versa. It just says that the tenant was involved in housing court at some point, and because there's such a high demand for housing in the city, that's often reason enough for landlords to immediately reject an applicant. In some cases, landlords may even mistake a potential tenant for someone on the list with the same first and last name.

Basic housing court records have typically been sold to tenant screening companies that create lists, which landlords and real estate management agents use to filter out tenants. Now, State Senator Liz Krueger announced today, that information -- maintained by hundreds of tenant screening companies across the country -- will no longer be sold electronically, which Krueger hopes would greatly curb discriminatory practices.

Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti sent a letter to Krueger, who represents parts of Manhattan, informing her that the courts would stop these sales as of June 1st, 2012. Information regarding individual cases will still be available through the Unified Civil Courts' eCourts website and in the Housing Court clerks' offices, but those avenues would require interested parties to actively seek out the information.

Krueger and a coalition of electeds and tenants' advocates brought the issue to Prudenti's attention earlier this year.

"It has had a freezing impact on people's abilities to find new apartments," Krueger told the Voice today. "It has translated into people fearing going to housing court...because they are terrified of being blacklisted."

She said that the practice has particularly impacted low-income residents seeking apartments, since there is such a shortage of truly affordable housing in the city.

The fundamental problem, she said, is that tenants can end up on these lists having done nothing wrong. "No matter what the realities are about you, or your ability to pay rent, or your reputation as a good neighbor, none of that matters."

It has been a bit of a tough issue to tackle, in part because Krueger didn't want want to restrict access to public documents that must be available. "But how do you stop exploitation...and the totally flawed use of information?"

This latest move, she said, would make it so that landlords could not simply cross-check every person who wants an apartment with a centralized list.

Krueger said she plans on monitoring the impact of this policy shift to see if it stops the discriminatory practices. "It's outrageous, and it's been going on for years," she said. "We all need to watch what happens."
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