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Feds Say Tenant Screener Is Subject to Fair Housing Act


January 10, 2023

The U.S. government told a Massachusetts federal court that tenant-screening firm SafeRent Solutions is subject to the Fair Housing Act, giving a boost to claims by two would-be renters that the company’s algorithm was unfairly used against them.

In a brief filed Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said previous court cases, including an active one in Connecticut involving SafeRent Solutions LLC, support its position that the company can be liable for discrimination even if it is not a direct housing provider.

“The language of the FHA plainly focuses on prohibited acts, not specific actors,” according to the government’s brief.

Since SafeRent, formerly known as CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions, does not share details about its algorithm, housing providers effectively have to rely on the tenant-screening firm to decide whether to approve or deny a rental application, the brief said.

The two women who sued SafeRent and Metropolitan Management Group said their applications for apartments in the Boston area were denied because of their credit history. They said the defendants’ reliance on “SafeRent scores” for tenants derived from the algorithm had a disparate impact on Black, Hispanic and low-income people, who tend to have lower credit scores than white applicants.

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The plaintiffs are represented by Todd S. Kaplan and Nadine Cohen of Greater Boston Legal Services; Christine E. Webber and Samantha N. Gerleman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC; and Stuart T. Rossman, Charles M. Delbaum and Ariel C. Nelson of the National Consumer Law Center.

Read the article on Law360.