Written by Jen Haynes, Associate Director of Housing for YWCA of Spokane
One of my clients, Christina, received a Section 8 housing voucher while she was in our transitional housing program for survivors of domestic violence. She faced a lot of barriers to housing due to issues that her partner had had with their previous landlord. Those issues were affecting her rental history, as well. This is a common experience for survivors of domestic violence.
Christina attended the responsible renters class with the YWCA, and worked with her housing advocate to improve her rental history. She followed all of the steps that she could to address the issues, but some of them take months and sometimes years to fix. She was under time pressure; her voucher would expire in 90 days if she didn’t find a place that also fit the criteria for her voucher.
She had an income of $197 a month, and had to pay for six screenings before she found a landlord who would let her appeal an initial decision not to rent to her; during the appeal, the landlord decided to accept her as a tenant.
In total, the background check fees cost Christina $200, more than her monthly income. Even with an advocate helping her navigate the low income housing stock and criteria — a challenge in itself — Christina faced massive barriers to safe housing.
The Fair Tenant Screening Act, a bill that is now awaiting a vote by state lawmakers, would have prevented Christina from having to spend more than her monthly income on screening fees. It would make the tenant screening process more practical and efficient. Tenants would be able to buy just one report that could be provided to all prospective landlords requesting the data.
The bill would reduce one of the many barriers that survivors of domestic violence face in finding safe, secure, affordable housing. And for survivors of domestic violence, it could save someone’s life.
Please join me in advocating for the Fair Tenant Screening Act. It passed the House yesterday, and heads to the Senate next. Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000, and leave the following message for your senator:
Please vote yes on SHB 1257, Pass the Fair Tenant Screening Act. It will make tenant screening reports more affordable, and help prevent homelessness.