KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Finding almost anything can be a hassle for Sima Agayeva. Her belongings and those of her boyfriend’s are stacked either in storage or in the living room of her boyfriend’s parents home.
The two have been living like this for weeks -- ever since the apartment complex they were were move into denied their application just days before the big move.
“I said, ‘Why? This is shocking,’" Agayeva remembered asking the complex manager who informed her of the denial.
She was told she hadn’t passed the background check, something that puzzled Agayeva who along with her boyfriend make a good income and have always paid their bills on time.
But Agayeva said she had no way of quickly defending herself because it took weeks before she learned where the information about her that was keeping her from renting had originated.
Agayeva isn’t alone in finding herself the victim of a background check.
“It's a really startling high number,” said attorney Michael Rapp of Stecklein & Rapp.
Rapp said about 22 percent of all background checks contain wrong or misleading information.
“Half of those were severe enough to keep people from being employed or getting a house or getting a loan,” he said.
Some people have been denied jobs because a background check reveals a felony conviction when, in reality, the person has never even been arrested. Rapp said everyone has the right to know what’s on their background check so they have the chance to dispute any false information.
Agayeva received a letter from the complex stating she was denied for two reasons: There was a fraud alert on her credit report, and she had an unsatisfactory/insufficient rental history.
With some digging, she learned the unsatisfactory rental history involved an unpaid water bill at the apartment she was still in the process of vacating. She said the water bill was paid the day she moved out, which she said was in accordance with her lease.
She did have a fraud alert on her credit report, though she was unaware of it. But Rapp said it should never have been listed as a reason for denying her an apartment.
“It's not a negative thing at all,” Rapp said. “It's something you are supposed to put on if you feel your information has been stolen. With all the data breaches out there, theoretically everyone should have a fraud alert.”
Rapp recommended that people regularly check their credit histories with the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. That way if anything on the report is false, you can have it removed before it hinders your ability to get a job or an apartment.
However, as Agayeva discovered, you can still be denied simply because of how someone has chosen to interpret information as negative when it isn’t really negative.
The good news is that Agayeva was able to rent an apartment at another complex a few weeks later. That complex also conducted a background check. Agayeva passed with flying colors although nothing in her background had changed.