Oregon Background Checks

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Oregon Background Checks

Background checks are a vital part of thorough tenant screening. Every landlord needs to know the history of every applicant. Background checks give you a good idea of whether someone makes payment on time, stays out of massive debt, has a criminal past, and a lot more.

 

Background checks reduce the chances of tenant turnover, protect you from liability, and help you and other tenants remain safe.

 

In this article, we’ll help you understand what background checks consist of, how to ensure you get the information you need, and what you need to know about your state’s rules regarding them. 

What are Background Checks?

  1. Credit Report: Aside from a lease agreement, a tenant credit might be the most crucial document for a landlord to understand. This document is one of the best ways to determine whether someone will pay on time and in full. Here are the main components of a credit report:
    • Basic information like former names/aliases, current and previous addresses, etc.
    • Fraud indicators like invalid phone numbers or phony social security numbers
    • Tradeline summaries that give a snapshot of an applicant’s active accounts
    • Inquiries that show a list of companies who viewed an applicant’s credit file over the last two years
    • Credit/resident score
    • Winter weather damage

    The credit score and the resident score are key. A credit score is a numerical value anywhere from 300-850 that helps illuminate an applicant’s creditworthiness. If an applicant has a score of 500 or less, proceed with caution. Most reliable tenants will ave a score above 560. A resident score is similar to a credit score, but more directly reflects someone’s reliability as a tenant. Both scores are proprietary, so the exact formulas aren’t available to the public. That said, resident scores typically include a recommendation on whether to accept an applicant or not (this shouldn’t be treated as gospel obviously, but it’s helpful).

  2. Criminal History: Wide-sweeping national databases, more narrow specific state databases, and granular county records are the main elements of most criminal history reports.
  3. Income Verification: There are several ways to verify income. Let’s look at some of the most common here: whether someone will pay on time and in full. Here are the main components of a credit report:
    • Pay Stubs: Paychecks are the most common way to verify income. Anyone with full-time or part-time employment can make copies of paychecks and send them to you.
    • Yearly Tax Returns: A federal tax return is another option to obtain proof of income. This is often an excellent option because it’s an official legal document, so it’s difficult to fake.
    • W-2 Tax Form: These forms show employer’s withholding payroll taxes from workers’ earnings. This is another good option because it’s a document directly from an employer.
    • Bank Statements: This method is especially effective for self-employed applicants because they won’t have regular pay stubs like those who work for traditional businesses.

    Important Note: Innago’s new income verification feature, which you can learn more about here, makes it easier than ever to ensure your tenants have the necessary funds to pay you

  4. Eviction History: Except in cases where overdue rent went to collections or a previous landlord reports late payments, credit reports don’t usually show evictions.  Federal law typically prevents evictions from being shown on a background check after seven years, but this figure varies by state
    If you cannot see an applicant’s eviction history on a credit report or obtain the information by contacting their previous landlords, then you may pull an eviction report. However, certain states have restrictions on different kinds of reports (we’ll address those if they’re relevant later in this piece).
    Eviction history matters because the cost of an eviction for landlords is often between $4,000 and $7,000 or more. That means that if a tenant was evicted, they likely left their previous landlord with no other choice.
  5. Application: A rental application is a preliminary form used to obtain basic information about an applicant and their eligibility. Most applications ask for this information:
    • Landlord References: Contact previous landlords and get their take on applicants. This is a critical step that some landlords skip over. Make sure you’re not one of those landlords.
    • Employment History: You want to know current and former employers and get consent to contact them.
    • Written Permission to Run a Credit Check
    • Legal Disclosures: Here’s a helpful article on what disclosures to include.
    • Additional Inquiries: Be careful here. Make sure you don’t ask questions that violate laws. Only ask about things like pets or smoking. And make sure you’re consistent.

Why Do You Need to Run Background Checks?

Background checks in general are utilized by a variety of groups: landlords, employers, lenders, licensing agencies, government agencies, etc. Tenant screening or employment background checks are run to ensure that a candidate for a job, license, property, or loan is properly qualified and does not have a history of behavior that would interfere with their ability to perform the duties required under contract. Background checks minimize legal liability, protect companies’ assets and current employees, and are sometimes required by clients.

 

When it comes to landlords, background checks are needed to: 

    • Protect the safety and property of other tenants
    • Reduce tenant turnover
    • Minimize legal liability
    • Increase the likelihood of on-time rental payments
    • Avoid conflict and crime in the rental community
    • Narrow down applicants for a high-demand property
    • Prevent expensive and lengthy eviction processes

Oregon Background Checks

Landlords in the Beaver State should run a background check (Oregon) on potential tenants as a precaution and general policy. Here are three reasons to run background checks in Oregon:  

  1. Rental application fraud  

Rental application fraud, which occurs when a tenant lies on their application or submits falsified pay stubs, bank statements, etc., is on the rise. A 2022 study by Snappt done in America found that almost 10% of the nearly 50,000 applicants reviewed falsified documents. Running an Oregon background check can help guard against fraudulent documents and inconsistent information before someone moves into your property, lowering your chances of dealing with an expensive eviction later.  

  1. Avoid future evictions  

Evicting a tenant in Oregon is a process landlords want to avoid. One key reason for this is that an eviction in Oregon can take between two and eight weeks and cost thousands and thousands of dollars. Additionally — because tenants with a previous eviction are more likely to be evicted again — understanding an applicant’s eviction history is essential for avoiding this potential nightmare.   

  1. Learn about the existence or nature of illegal activity  

It’s also important to conduct criminal background checks in Oregon. The Beaver state has an incarceration rate of 555 per 100,000 people, which is higher than most democratic countries in the world. While landlords cannot have a blanket policy for denying citizens with a criminal record, certain crimes (like sex crimes) restrict housing options and can be valid reasons to deny a tenant. It’s important to conduct background checks because it helps you understand potential tenants better and gain awareness of criminal history that may impact an applicant’s ability to be a good tenant. 

How far back do Background Checks in Oregon go?

When you use consumer reports to make tenant decisions, you must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). 

  

Section § 605 – 15 U.S.C. § 1681c of The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) applies in all 50 states and mandates a seven-year restriction on reporting certain background check information like civil suits, civil judgments, and arrest records (except in certain cases where an employer is hiring for a job with a salary more than $75,000). The FCRA doesn’t have similar timeline restrictions on criminal convictions, but some states restrict reporting conviction information at the local level. 

 

Oregon doesn’t limit the lookback period for misdemeanor and felony convictions to seven years, so these can go back indefinitely. 

However, if you go through Oregon’s Criminal Justice Information Services for criminal records, you won’t receive records going back seven years. Per their website, you’ll only learn about convictions under a year old. 

You can, as mentioned earlier, use convictions (and some charges in Oregon) to reject an applicant. Landlords cannot, however, use this information to violate the Fair Housing Act and discriminate against someone based on things like religion, race, and sex. Oregon also extends the non-discrimination policies to protect against discrimination based on familial and marital status. 

What do Background Checks in Oregon Cost?

Criminal background checks are fairly affordable across the U.S., but their costs vary depending on the area searched and the level of information requested. Searching national records typically costs between $13-60 per person, while searching an individual state’s records like Oregon typically costs between $10 and $35 per person (e.g., Oregon State Police charge $33 for an Oregon criminal background check). County records, which tend to be more accurate and up to date, usually cost $16-$25 per person per county checked. You can learn more about each of these specific types of background checks in our article on the topic 

Which Laws Apply to Oregon Background Checks?

An Oregon background check cannot be used by anyone for any purpose. Due to fair housing protections, the use of credit reports and criminal background checks is restricted. It’s important to note that you must get applicants’ explicit written consent to an Oregon background check considers compliant before running one. 

Every landlord in Oregon should familiarize themselves with Oregon state law. Chapter 90 of Oregon Revised Statutes, particularly § 90.303 and § 90.304, is key for the focus of this section. 

Based on Oregon background check laws, it’s legal to deny a prospective tenant based on the results of their criminal background check, but the offense must be: 

  • A drug-related crime 
  • A sex offense, financial fraud  
  • Identity theft and forgery 
  • A person crime 
  • Any other crime that would adversely impact your property, the health and safety of other residents 

The offense cannot be a conviction based exclusively on the use or possession of marijuana. You also may not consider the possession of a medical card of status as a marijuana patient if these factors are present. 

Before denying an applicant based on criminal history, though, you must: 

  • Allow them to submit evidence to explain, justify or negate the relevance of potentially inaccurate information. 
  • Perform an individual assessment of the applicant. 

During your individual assessment in the background check process, you need to consider things like the nature and severity of the crime, the time since the events, and the age the applicant was at the time. If you fail to comply with these stipulations, the applicant may recover $100. 

If you deny an applicant after application of screening or admissions criteria, you must provide a written statement with one or more reasons for the denial within 14 days. Reasons can include (but aren’t limited to) things like negative references, inability to verify rental history information, and insufficient income. 

The denial statement must also include: 

  •  The name and address of any tenant screening companies or consumer reporting agencies that provide reports on which the denial is based. 
  • Any additional evidence the applicant provided that you considered. 
  • An explanation of the reasons that additional evidence didn’t compensate for the factors that informed your rejection decision. 
  • The applicant’s right to appeal the decision, if that right exists. 

Landlords don’t need to disclose the results of a screening report to an applicant as long as they abide by the FCRA. You may provide a copy of a report if a tenant requests one as stipulated by the FCRA. 

When it comes to employers and Oregon background check laws, it’s important to know that Oregon is a ban-the-box state. In Oregon, this law applies to the private and public sector. Employers must wait until after the initial interview has started or a conditional job offer is extended to ask about criminal records. 

Another important law to know relevant to employment history and Oregon is the Pay Equity law. This rule prevents employers from seeking out potential employees past salaries or wages prior to extending an offer that includes a compensation agreement. So, it’s crucial to be careful during the employment background check to respect this rule. 

Before you run a background check in Oregon, be sure to research state and local background check laws and federal regulations. Keep in mind that while Oregon background checks are subject to state laws and executive orders, some areas may enforce additional regulations. Be sure you’re educated on the law in your region and adhere to the HUD’s recommendations 

How to Run Background Checks in Oregon?

When conducting background checks in Oregon, it’s best to use a third-party provider. However, you can run an Oregon background check yourself. If you run a DIY background check, your best bet is to fill out a criminal history request form to get criminal history records from the Oregon State Police, contact an applicant’s former landlords and employers, obtain a credit report (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three major credit reporting agencies that compile credit information), verify income, look at the sex offender registry, and ensure you have all the information you need to conduct thorough tenant screening. DIY checks can be very risky, though, because it’s much easier to run afoul of laws inadvertently (unless you’re extremely well-versed in the law). They can also be extremely time-consuming. 

For expediency and the peace of mind that you’re working with a company abiding by laws, it’s a better option for most landlords is hiring a third-party provider. You can select the kind of reporting you need and let the third-party take care of the collection and reporting process, which saves you substantial time and effort. 

Background Checks with Innago

At Innago, we’ve partnered with TransUnion SmartMove to help you review background check information and identify high quality applicants. Running a background check through Innago allows you to quickly and easily identify the best applicants and ensure their application information is accurate. Likewise, Innago’s income verification feature helps our users verify reported income by connecting to their bank account, payroll provider, or by uploading documents. 

 

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend you consult with professional counsel if you have legal questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with relevant laws.