When you apply for a job or housing, you may have to consent to providing a background report as part of your application. Negative information in these background reports can have a devastating impact on your reputation—preventing you from getting a job or being approved for housing. Inaccurate negative information can be even worse. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to receive prior notice that a background check might be conducted on you. Your employer or landlord, subject to limited exceptions, must ask you for permission before they can obtain your background report. And before taking any “adverse action”—like not hiring or promoting you because of information in a background report—an employer has to give you a copy of the report and a summary of your rights. A landlord only needs to give you a copy upon a timely request and after an adverse action is already taken.
When possible, always check your background reports to make sure there is no inaccurate information being reported about you. Common errors can include public record information, such as evictions or convictions, that belong to another person with the same or similar name. Another common error is when a background check company includes public record information in your report that has been, depending on the laws of your state, expunged from your record. You may also live in a state where convictions should not be reported in background checks once a certain amount of time has passed, like California. Under the FCRA, eviction actions can’t be included in your background reports if they are more than seven years old. If you find any inaccurate or outdated information like that listed above, you should take steps to correct it.
You can dispute inaccurate or outdated information contained in a background report by mailing a letter to the background check agency that provided the report. You should use certified mail and request a return receipt, so you can be sure that your dispute letter is received by the agency. In your dispute, you should clearly point out what information you are disputing and why you are disputing it. Include all supporting documentation you can to support your claims. The background check agency is obligated to investigate your dispute upon receipt.
While a dispute may fix some of the errors you find on your reports, it will not always result in correction—preventing you from getting a job or getting approved for that apartment. If you find inaccurate or outdated information in a background report, you may want to talk to an attorney about your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Schedule Your Free Consultation!
 Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau, What is a tenant screening report? (Jul. 2021), https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-is-a-tenant-screening-report-en-2102/.
 Mary Griffin and John McNamara, Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau, Applying for a job? It’s important to know what goes into your background screen reports (Oct. 2019), https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/applying-job-its-important-know-what-goes-your-background-screening-reports/.
 See above note 2.
 Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau, Errors in your tenant screening report shouldn’t keep you from finding a place to call home (Jul. 2021), https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/errors-in-your-tenant-screening-report-shouldnt-keep-you-from-finding-a-place-to-call-home/.
 See Cal. Civ. Code § 1786.18 (convictions older than seven years may not be included in a background report).
 See 15 U.S.C. § 1681c.
 Consumer Fin. Prot. Bureau, How do I dispute an error on my credit report? (Oct. 2021), https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-do-i-dispute-an-error-on-my-credit-report-en-314/.
 Fed. Trade Comm’n, Employer Background Checks and Your Rights, https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/employer-background-checks-your-rights.
 See 15 U.S.C. § 1681i.
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