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Screener Faces FHA Claims Over Tenant Scoring Algorithm


May 25, 2022

Two Massachusetts women and a fair housing organization on Wednesday accused a tenant screening company of racial discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act, saying its scoring tool disproportionately denies housing to Black and Hispanic renters.

Tenants Mary Louis of Malden and Monica Douglas of Canton, along with the Community Action Agency of Somerville, filed a proposed class action in Massachusetts federal court targeting SafeRent Solutions LLC. The Texas-based company has “effectively blackballed” certain low-income, minority renters, according to the suit.

SafeRent Solutions’ algorithmic SafeRent Score is based “in significant part” on prospective renters’ credit history and score, the plaintiffs claimed. This history includes debts that are not related to prior tenancies, and allegedly results in disproportionately lower scores and housing denials for Black and Hispanic renters.

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SafeRent Solutions was already facing Fair Housing Act claims prior to Wednesday’s complaint. A federal trial expected to resume this fall in Connecticut is focused on the company’s algorithmic CrimSAFE product, which pulls criminal records.

In that suit, filed in 2018, plaintiffs argue that CrimSAFE can disqualify a renter simply based on the existence of a charge or conviction, disproportionately denying housing to Black and Hispanic renters.

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is co-counsel for the plaintiffs in both cases, which allege that SafeRent Solutions is a key decision-maker for its clients, assessing prospective renters through an opaque process.

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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 Screener Faces FHA Claims Over Tenant Scoring Algorithm.