You heard me right, there are now lists on the internet that landlords can refer to to see if a prospective tenant is a good candidate. One such list is do not rent to dot com. It appears that any landlord can submit unfavorable information about a past or present tenant for free, but in order to access the blacklist records, you need to pay $29.99.
The information that a landlord can enter onto the site include social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, renter’s full name, amount of bills owed, pictures of damage and a 4000 character comment section. NBC12 News reports that there is nothing illegal about landlords participating in this website. However, there are plenty of consumer advocates who disagree. Landlords could violate local, state, and national Fair Housing Laws in their comments. And although this was the reason this article was sent to me (I’m a certified and state licensed fair housing instructor), I see a much bigger and easier trap of violating the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act.
The Virginia Landlord Tenant Act clearly states in 55-248.9:1
Confidentiality of Tenant Records that no landlord or managing agent shall release information about a tenant or prospective tenant in the possession of the landlord to a third party unless:
1. The tenant or prospective tenant has given prior written consent;
2. The information is a matter of public record as defined in § 2.2-3701;
3. The information is a summary of the tenant’s rent payment record, including the amount of the tenant’s periodic rent payment;
4. The information is a copy of a material noncompliance notice that has not been remedied or, termination notice given to the tenant under § 55-248.31 and the tenant did not remain in the premises thereafter;
5. The information is requested by a local, state, or federal law-enforcement or public safety official in the performance of his duties;
6. The information is requested pursuant to a subpoena in a civil case;
7. The information is requested by a contract purchaser of the landlord’s property; provided the contract purchaser agrees in writing to maintain the confidentiality of such information;
8. The information is requested by a lender of the landlord for financing or refinancing of the property;
9. The third party is the landlord’s attorney; or
10. The information is otherwise provided in the case of an emergency.
Who has to abide by the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act?
The VRLTA covers most residential rental agreements. Several types of properties are exempt from the Act, including single-family rental houses where the landlord owns and rents ten or fewer such houses.
- Apartments: Generally, apartments are covered by the VRLTA regardless of the number of apartment units the landlord rents (see exemptions to the VRLTA in Section 55-248.5).
- Motels/Hotels/Manufactured Homes: Motels and boarding houses are covered by the VRLTA if the tenant lives in such residence for more than 30 days. Some provisions of the VRLTA protect tenants in manufactured home parks.
- Public Housing and Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8): Landlord-tenant relations in public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers or Section 8 housing, and other federally subsidized housing are regulated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The VRLTA applies to such rentals as long as it is consistent with federal regulations. Tenants in subsidized housing may gain certain rights from the VRLTA in matters that federal regulations do not cover.
- Single Family Housing: The VRLTA applies to single-family dwellings if the owner owns more than ten dwellings. However, if the owner owns more than four single-family residences or condominium units located within a city or any county having either the urban county executive form (Fairfax) or county manager plan of government (Arlington), the VRLTA applies. Single-family dwellings may be covered under the VRLTA if there is a clause in the lease that states the VRLTA will apply.
Anytime you particpate in an online forum that could negatively impact another person, you need to be very careful and make sure that you are not violating law. Confidentiality is a serious matter. Filling out the forms on this particular website is only opening landlords up to liability and potential lawsuits. The benefits do not outweigh the risks.