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24 Harv. J. on Legis. 239 (1987)
Tenant Blacklisting: Tenant Screening Services and the Right to Privacy

handle is hein.journals/hjl24 and id is 245 raw text is: NOTE
TENANT BLACKLISTING: TENANT
SCREENING SERVICES AND THE RIGHT TO
PRIVACY
ROBERT R. STAUFFER*
Tenant screening services use advanced computer technology to offer
data on prospective tenants to landlords. Presently unregulated, these
services may legally report tenants' prior successful lawsuits against land-
lords and legally justified withholding of rent as vell as tenants' race,
religion, and intimate personal behavior.
in this Note, Robert Stauffer explores tenant screening services as they
now operate, and focuses on the dangers to privacy presented by their
growth. He analyzes policy concerns which militate against the practices
of these services, and considers opposing arguments, such as those
grounded in freedom of speech. After reviewing current law, Mr. Stauffer
concludes that the existing legal framework inadequately protects the
legitimate interests of tenants, and proposes a scheme of regulation ap-
plicable to tenant screening services.
Suppose that in order to find housing in our society, you had
to present yourself before a large machine. This machine, in
considering your application, would review your life to deter-
mine whether you were worthy of housing. It would have access
to any information about you that had ever appeared in a public
record; it would know if you had ever been involved in a court
proceeding; it would know if you had ever been lax in paying
your bills; it would know whether any of your previous landlords
or neighbors thought you were too loud, or used drugs, or had
disreputable friends, or were simply too radical; it would know
your sex, your age, your race, your religion, and any other
information which you had not succeeded in keeping completely
to yourself and your closest friends. And when you asked this
machine whether it would grant you a roof over your head, it
would examine all of this information and immediately spit back
its reply-a reply which would be negative if there were any
piece of information in your history which it found disagreeable.
This Orwellian procedure for obtaining housing sounds like
science fiction and hopefully will remain so. For an increasing
* Associate, Jenner & Block, Chicago, IlL. B.A. University of Missouri, 1983; J.D.,
Harvard University, 1986. The author would like to thank Assistant Professor William
Fisher for his assistance.

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