Currently, a prospective landlord may choose to take a copy of a credit report if the tenant provides one from one of the three major credit reporting agencies, but the law does not require them to do so. The Tenants Union is working with our partners to pass legislation that would lower application costs by requiring landlords to accept credit reports from tenants if they can be verified with the credit reporting agency.
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To read the specific laws in the WA State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of Washington) links throughout the Tenant Services website.
Tenants Union Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. Please read our full Tenant Union Disclaimer.
Housing Search FAQ
- Does the landlord have to take a copy of my credit report if I provide one?
- What if something on my credit report is incorrect or was placed there illegally?
- Can the landlord screen someone I want to move into my house with me?
- I have a family member or partner who lives elsewhere, but will be staying over regularly in my unit. What are my rights?
- I’m concerned that my former landlord will misrepresent my rental history to a new potential landlord and give me a bad reference. What can I do?
- If I won in eviction court, or was evicted illegally, can the eviction be used against me in the screening process?
- Can the landlord ask me my social security number or bank account numbers on the rental application?
You can petition credit reporting agencies to have any errors removed from your record. This can be a difficult process. For detailed information, see the Federal Trade Commission’s How to Dispute Credit Report Errors.
Yes. If you want to move an additional tenant in mid-tenancy, the landlord has the right to put them through the screening process and charge them the application fee.
I have a family member or partner who lives elsewhere, but will be staying over regularly in my unit. What are my rights?
Review the guest policy in your rental agreement. Often rental agreements limit the specific number of days, consecutive or total, a guest can stay in the unit without being screened and added to the contract. The landlord may ask that a frequent visitor be screened and have their name added to the rental agreement if they exceed the number of days allowed for visitors.
I’m concerned that my former landlord will misrepresent my rental history to a new potential landlord and give me a bad reference. What can I do?
If you are concerned that a former landlord may misrepresent or lie about your qualifications as a tenant, you can give the new landlord an explanation of the situation, or bring additional references. There are no laws in the Landlord-Tenant Act that restrict what information a landlord gives about you as a part of the screening process. You may decide to bring references from other former landlords or employers and other character references. In situations like this, many tenants wonder if there is a way to sue their landlord for defamation (slander or libel). It may be possible to bring a private action against them in court, but it can be very difficult to secure an attorney for a lawsuit like this. For more information on how to best utilize legal services to solve housing problems, see the tenant Legal Assistance Guide.
If I won in eviction court, or was evicted illegally, can the eviction be used against me in the screening process?
Yes, even if you were evicted illegally, or won in eviction court, it will still show up in your record as an eviction and may be used against you in the screening process. You can go to the courthouse and print out the court’s judgment that stated that you prevailed, or other documentation that the action was brought against you illegally. The new landlord may be willing to consider the extenuating circumstances.
Can the landlord ask me my social security number or bank account numbers on the rental application?
Yes. As long as landlords are not collecting information in a discriminatory manner, there are no laws restricting what information is asked of you on a rental application. You may ask why the landlord wants the information and what they are going to do with it. They must have a legitimate business reason for requesting the information. It is at a landlord’s discretion to choose not to offer a unit to you if you do not provide the information requested, but sometimes landlords will be flexible if you have concerns.
IRS regulations specify that projects financed through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program are not required to collect social security numbers from potential residents. However, LIHTC projects still ask for social security numbers on applications and use them to determine applicants’ financial eligibility and suitability as tenants. Equivalent identification would be a Work Visa, Alien Registration Receipt Card, Temporary Resident Card, IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or Employment Authorization Card. Failure on the part of applicants to provide social security numbers or equivalent identification could hinder or delay an LIHTC property’s ability to review their applications for housing.