Every so often it is suggested that landlords begin compiling a list of bad tenants to share with one another. This topic often arises after a landlord has been “burned” by a bad tenant that skipped out on a lease owing rent, caused severe damage to the landlord’s rental property, or any number of other breaches of their rental agreement. It is argued that such a list could prevent other landlords from renting to the same “bad” tenant and hopefully avoid being burned as well. While this seems like a great idea on its face, blacklising tenants is full of legal ramifications.
This issue came up last week on the “AASEW Listserv” (a Yahoo groups community that includes 800+ landlords and property managers primarily located in the SE Wisconsin area that discuss all things rental). The list serv is expertly moderated by Tim Ballering. If you are not a member of this list serv (and you are invovled in the rental property industry) then you should definitely join by sending an email to ApartmentAssocfirstname.lastname@example.org
Below is the question posed by a landlord and the moderator’s response.
Does our group have a policy about sharing names of problem tenants? I am sure some landlords would love to know who is a problem and others may feel differently about that.
Short Version: We do not permit it.
Long Version (why we do not permit something that would be a great tool for all of us):
Posting deadbeats names to a list violates the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
“Blacklists” are quite illegal and potentially costly to those involved with maintaining the list or those sharing the names that end up on the list. If you keep a list of who has been naughtly or nice, that list must contain both good and bad information about the tenant. Additionally, those named tenants must have the ability to review and challenge the validity of their inclusion. Finally, all provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act must be complied with that any other credit bureau must adhere to.
Fines can be as large as $50,000 per offense plus the poosibility of being sued civilly.
The pertinent rules under the FDCPA are: