Exposing rent payment histories for profit

Rent it Right

Q: I’ve heard that landlords are starting to report on-time rent payments to credit reporting agencies, who will use this information in their credit reports and FICO scores. Is this true? Is it a good thing for tenants? –Amelia B.

A: You heard right. In June 2010, Experian, one of the big three credit bureaus, announced its purchase of RentBureau, a smaller bureau that concentrates on the multifamily rental industry. RentBureau now has a program that allows participating property management companies to feed rent payment histories directly to the bureau. The information will supposedly make its way to credit reports and FICO scores.

Whether this is a good thing for tenants is debatable, however. A careful look at the company’s website reveals just how problematic this new program is. The website page for residents strongly suggests that only positive rental histories will be reported ("In the past, only negative rental payment data such as evictions and collections were reported to consumer reporting agencies."). The page goes on to hype the benefits of having one’s "on-time rental payments" figure into credit scores, thereby helping tenants "establish or rebuild [their] credit" and "qualify for what [they] deserve."