AppFolio Background Checks: Everything You Need to Know

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  • AppFolio Background Checks: Everything You Need to Know
18 Apr, 2024
Daniel Cohen
15 min
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If AppFolio Background Check Errors Kept You From Renting a Property, You Have the Right to Correction and Compensation!

Losing out on a rental opportunity you really want is difficult, but losing out on it because AppFolio reported inaccurate, misleading, or false information in your background check is devastating and completely unfair! We explain how these mistakes happen, how to dispute them, when to consider a lawsuit, and how to get compensation. Get empowered!

If you’re in the rental market, you know how hard it can be to find a place that fits your budget, your location, and your family's needs. When you finally find the condo, apartment, vacation rental, or home that checks all the boxes, losing out on it due to the volume of applicants, falling short of the income requirements, or another reason is disappointing. But if you learn that you lost out on the property because the information included in your AppFolio background check report included disqualifying errors, the outcome is wholly unjust!

The bad news is that you may not be able to get the specific rental that you wanted. The good news is that federal and state law supports your right to protect yourself against these errors, and if you know how to navigate this legal landscape, you can repair your reputation, restore your financial and emotional health, get compensation, and get back into the rental market as quickly as possible.

With over seventy-five years of combined experience, the team of consumer protection attorneys at Consumer Attorneys can guide you through every step of the process, from error discovery to error correction and settlement. And with a nationwide practice, we’re always right where you need us to be.

For now, keep reading to learn all about the company, AppFolio resident screening, who uses it, what information is included in an AppFolio tenant screening report, what can go wrong, how to file an AppFolio credit check dispute, what the various AppFolio rental application status designations mean, why you might file an AppFolio lawsuit, and why a consumer protection lawyer can be your best asset and closest ally through this process.

About AppFolio

AppFolio is a technology company that sells an eponymous real-estate management software product targeting property management companies and landlords. Purporting to streamline the process from application through ongoing tenant relationship management, the platform is capable of generating AppFolio tenant screening reports, along with offering convenient marketing, management, maintenance, staffing, accounting, and communication interfaces between tenants and property managers.

If you are approved through an AppFolio screening, you will then likely be invited to engage with the property manager or landlord through an AppFolio app on your phone or other device.

AppFolio Background Check: What is it?

The background check is part of the AppFolio tenant screening process. Once you’ve found a property that you’re interested in renting or leasing, the property manager or landlord will send you a link to complete a basic intake form to gather data for your tenant screening. By law, only authorized background checks can be run on you, so you will be required to consent to the screening and provide personally identifiable information.

AppFolio will gather data about you across various categories, including your credit score, criminal and eviction histories, and income and prior rental verifications. It will then generate a report containing all of this information and provide the report to the prospective property manager or landlord. The latter then uses the report to make a decision about whether to approve or deny your rental application.

An AppFolio background check may show up in your subsequent credit reports because it is an inquiry made with the intention of you entering a lease. So, keep in mind that this type of inquiry is reportable and can lower your credit score going forward. However, it does not appear AppFolio reports to credit bureaus. So, if you see AppFolio, Inc. on your credit report, you know what it is and why it’s there.

Does AppFolio Do Background Checks?

Yes- though AppFolio is a comprehensive suite of programs targeting the rental industry, among the services it provides is an AppFolio rental application that includes a background check.

Whose Background Does AppFolio Check?

AppFolio checks the background of any prospective tenant interested in renting a property through a property management company or landlord that utilizes AppFolio software. Since you must consent to any background check, including an AppFolio background check, you will know in advance if you are expected to complete one.

Who Does AppFolio Use for Background Checks?

According to its website, when you submit to a background check by AppFolio, the AppFolio credit reporting portion is provided by Experian. The latter is one of the largest consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) in the nation and is known as one of the credit bureaus, along with Equifax and TransUnion. So, if you’re wondering, “What credit bureau does AppFolio use?” the answer is Experian.

In addition, AppFolio also uses an Experian product specifically geared toward the rental market called Experian Rent Bureau. So, your tenant data (including rental address history, lease status, late payments, evictions, etc.) is also provided to AppFolio by Experian.

AppFolio also gathers criminal and other landlord-tenant data from public records nationwide.

Is it Safe for Me?

If you’re wondering if AppFolio is legitimate, the answer is yes. Some people fear that AppFolio is a scam, but it is a legitimate and frequently utilized CRA in the landlord-tenant market. So, if a landlord or property manager asks you to complete an AppFolio screening as part of the application process, this is a legitimate request.

If you’re wondering if AppFolio is safe in terms of whether it generates accurate information, this is a more complicated question. For the most part, data reported by any CRA, including AppFolio, is accurate. However, just like any CRA, errors can and do occur regularly in AppFolio background checks. Research estimates that up to one-third of consumers are victimized by data reporting errors during their lifetime.

Clearly, consumer reports are a common and necessary part of how we function in society, so you should not be fearful of having to submit to an AppFolio background check, but you should always be aware of the possibility of errors, be diligent in reviewing every report run on you, and pursue error corrections and compensation if you suffer harm as a result.

You should also be aware that since AppFolio, like all companies that purchase and package consumer data for sale, does generate a percentage of reports with errors, there are AppFolio complaints online. In addition, the FTC levied a hefty fine of $4.25 million against AppFolio in 2020 for systemic failures to meet the standard of accuracy in reporting that is required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. FTC’s AppFolio case: The Fair Credit Reporting Act does more than just abide | Federal Trade Commission

Because errors are possible, and because AppFolio has already proven that it has problems with meeting the legal standards of accuracy, we recommend contacting a background check lawyer, such as our powerhouse team at Consumer Attorneys, if you discover any errors in your AppFolio background check report. This is especially important if these reporting errors harm your AppFolio application status.

When Does AppFolio Do Background Checks?

AppFolio background checks are run as part of the application process. It is typically done at the time that you formally apply for a property because it is a tenant screening tool. In other words, the information reported in a background check by AppFolio is used to determine whether you will be accepted or rejected as a tenant. You may hear this referred to as the AppFolio approval process, but AppFolio is actually just providing the information. Your prospective landlord or property manager is the one making a determination based on the information provided.

What Does AppFolio Look for in a Background Check?

Since AppFolio is geared toward tenant screening, it includes categories of information that are relevant to determining whether someone is a good fit for a particular rental opportunity. This includes:

  • AppFolio credit score and credit history. Experian provides this.
  • AppFolio criminal background check
  • AppFolio eviction history
  • AppFolio income verification
  • AppFolio rental verifications. Experian provides rental history.

Information not provided by Experian is pulled from various public databases or purchased from data furnishers, third-party companies, or other CRAs.

AppFolio Criminal Background Check

An AppFolio criminal background check is part of the overall report generated and provided to your prospective landlord or property manager. AppFolio states that it generates criminal data from scans of national, state, and county court records. It also scans criminal registries or lists put out by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and available sex offender registries.

How Far Back Do AppFolio Background Checks Go?

Criminal background checks typically involve a seven to ten-year look-back period. This means that for the seven to ten years prior to the date of the rental application, criminal background information is scanned and included in your AppFolio report. However, it is important to know that states vary with respect to their permissible look-back periods for criminal history and for what type of information is considered reportable.

In other words, it is possible that even accurate information in your AppFolio criminal background check is a violation of your rights under the FCRA if it should not have been reportable in the first place. This includes information that pre-dates the permissible look-back period in your state or information that is designated as non-reportable in your state. So, if criminal history data included in your AppFolio report is the reason you are rejected from a housing opportunity, you should discuss this with a lawyer at Consumer Attorneys, even if the information is superficially accurate.

How Does AppFolio Interpret What They Find in Background Checks?

AppFolio does not interpret the information provided in its background check reports. Rather, AppFolio provides information that is then relied on by your landlord or property manager in making a decision about your rental application.

AppFolio Background Check: How Long Does it Take?

Like all CRAs performing background checks, AppFolio background checks vary in length. This is because the data for some rental applicants is easy and seamless, and the data for other applicants can be more complicated. For instance, data generated for an applicant with a very common first and last name will require a greater level of review to correctly sort and maintain accuracy.

How Long Do AppFolio Background Checks Usually Take

AppFolio does not specify a length for its background check results. However, these types of reports can be completed within hours, days, or weeks, depending on the circumstances of the individual applicant. A day or two is a reasonable estimate for most applicants.

Why is Your AppFolio Background Check Taking So Long?

While most applicants are screened relatively quickly, and a background report is returned within a day or two, some applicants will experience delays. There are several reasons why these types of delays occur, but two common ones involve applicant data.

Applicant Consent and Data is Insufficient or Inadequate

You must authorize the AppFolio tenant background screening and must provide basic data in order for the check to be performed. If you fail to provide authorization or if you provide incomplete or inaccurate data during the initial intake process, it can slow down the returns.

Applicant Data Requires Additional Review

If your name is particularly common, an additional level of review may be required to ensure accuracy. This can slow the results. This is particularly true if, for instance, criminal data is returned for someone with your name, but AppFolio determines that it may not be relevant to you specifically. This should trigger a more thorough investigation that requires obtaining court records and other verification measures.

How to Check the Status of Your AppFolio Background Check

You will be notified as soon as your AppFolio background check is complete. At the time that you authorize the report, you can opt to receive a copy of the report once its ready. If you have done so, AppFolio will notify you that it is complete and provide you with a link to access a copy. Your report will be available for your review for 40 days, or you can download a copy to save.

AppFolio Says My Background Check Needs Attention

This is not really a designation that is pertinent to AppFolio, but if you receive a notice that your AppFolio background check needs attention, it likely means that additional information is required.

AppFolio Background Check Suspended: What it Means

This is not really a designation that is pertinent to AppFolio, but generally, if you receive notice that your AppFolio background check is suspended, it likely means that there are significant data issues that need to be clarified before the report can be generated.

AppFolio Background Check Problems

It is absolutely possible that you may experience AppFolio background check problems. The primary problem is AppFolio reporting false, inaccurate, or unreportable information. If you experience this issue, you should contact a consumer protection lawyer, such as those at Consumer Attorneys, to discuss whether to file an AppFolio dispute, an AppFolio lawsuit, or both.

Why Am I Deactivated From My Background Check in AppFolio?

If you haven’t saved a copy of your completed AppFolio background check report, the link to the cloud-based copy will expire after 30 days. Once it has expired, you can no longer access the report directly, but you can still request a copy from AppFolio or the landlord or property management company. In addition, if you are within the 30-day window and your link isn’t working, it may be that AppFolio is down for repair, maintenance, updates, or an outage. Check back again.

How to Dispute AppFolio Rejected Background Check

If you were rejected as an applicant for a housing opportunity due to information in your AppFolio background check report, take the following steps:

  1. Find out why you were rejected. By law, you are entitled to a copy of your AppFolio background check report and are entitled to know which specific information in your report caused you to be rejected for the rental opportunity in question. So, review the report and ask which information resulted in your denial.
  2. Contact a consumer protection lawyer. Credit and background check reports are among the things that consumer protection lawyers deal with every single day. A lawyer can advise you on whether the information relied on in denying your rental application constitutes an error. Obviously, you will know if certain information is glaringly wrong (for instance, if your AppFolio criminal background check says you were convicted of a felony, but you’ve never been in trouble with the law). But, a consumer protection lawyer knows the state laws that dictate which types of information are reportable in your state and what the legal look-back periods are. So, even if the criminal information is accurate, it may still constitute a reporting error.

    If there is an error, a lawyer can also advise what the best course of action is. For instance, whether you should dispute the error or file an AppFolio, Inc. lawsuit.

  3. Dispute the error. If you're working with a lawyer, they will advise you on whether it is the type of reporting error that you should dispute or whether you have grounds to file a lawsuit without having to dispute. If you do file an AppFolio dispute, we generally recommend doing so via certified mail because sometimes online dispute platforms require you to waive the right to file a lawsuit, and phone calls are hard to validate without relying on AppFolio’s records. AppFolio provides basic information about disputes on its website under the topic of AppFolio Consumer Relations.
  4. File a lawsuit. If you’re working with a lawyer, they will advise you whether you have the legal grounds to file a lawsuit against AppFolio and seek compensation for any harm sustained by their reporting errors.

Why You Should Dispute a Rejected Background Check

If you are rejected from a rental opportunity due to errors in your AppFolio background check, you should absolutely dispute them. As explained above, it is also possible that even factually accurate information is considered a reporting error if it is otherwise unreportable under your specific state law. So, if you are rejected due to your background report, it is absolutely worth speaking with a lawyer about your options.

In addition, AppFolio tenant screening errors can result in you being denied the rental property in question, being denied other rental properties, being delayed in obtaining housing, and being subject to worse terms and conditions related to the rental opportunity (such as a higher deposit and other leasing terms).

The Changes of AppFolio’s Decision Being Reversed

To be clear, AppFolio is not the decision maker. AppFolio provides the background check report to your landlord or property manager, but it is not responsible for making the determination regarding your application. So, there is no AppFolio decision that can be reversed. There is, however, a decision from your landlord or property manager that can be reversed.

Unfortunately, even if errors in your AppFolio background check report resulted in your denial, there is no guarantee that your landlord or property manager’s immediate decision will be reversed. While some landlords and property managers are receptive to explanations about errors in reporting, others are not. The law does not hold them accountable for denials that are based in good faith on the information in your report.

More likely than not, you will need to speak to a consumer protection lawyer to determine what to do next and how to fix any errors so that you can have success with other housing opportunities going forward.

Who Can Help You with Disputing

A consumer protection lawyer is your best bet for disputing errors in your credit report. At Consumer Attorneys, our lawyers know the federal and state laws that directly impact all aspects of background check report complaints, disputes, and lawsuits. We can guide you through the legal landscape, advise you on the best course of action, and file a lawsuit to get you compensation if necessary.

Lawsuits Against Background Check Companies Because of AppFolio

Since reporting errors of all kinds are a part of our daily legal practice, we have helped thousands of consumers correct errors, restore reputations, and collect compensation. We have seen, heard, and handled nearly every factual situation implicated in this area of the law, and we can help you, too. Below are two examples of recent cases where we sued AppFolio and won.

False Criminal Record

When our client, Josh, applied for a rental property that relied on a different company for a tenant screening report, a false drug conviction was reported in his name, and he lost the rental he wanted. Trying for a different apartment, he filled out an application with a property management company that used AppFolio instead. When AppFolio returned the same erroneous drug conviction in Josh’s report, he was able to convince the management company that it wasn’t accurate. Though they decided to let Josh rent the apartment, they required him to pay double the original deposit. We filed a lawsuit on Josh’s behalf against both companies and secured settlements in both, including $32,500.00 from the other company and $25,000.00 from AppFolio.

False Civil Judgment

Our client, Jason, moved to a new state and applied for a rental, only to be turned down by two separate real estate companies based on tenant screening reports provided to them by AppFolio. The reports incorrectly stated that Jason had a civil judgment against him arising from an eviction from an apartment in another state. However, the actual judgment and eviction were against Jason’s ex-wife for an apartment that he had never lived in nor had any contractual relationship with. Though it was true that the complaint filed in court by his ex-wife’s landlord did include his name, the landlord quickly filed a voluntary dismissal regarding Jason, and this information was part of the public record. We filed a lawsuit demonstrating that AppFolio and another screening company failed to meet the legal standard of reporting accurate information and secured a settlement for $25,000.00 from AppFolio and $34,500.00 from the other company.

Ask for Our Help Now

If you’ve been rejected from a rental opportunity due to errors or information in your AppFolio background check report, let us help you decide what the best next steps are. The lawyers on our top-tier legal team at Consumer Attorneys can listen, advise, and guide you toward resolution, including filing a lawsuit on your behalf and getting you the compensation you deserve.

Under the FCRA, if we sue AppFolio on your behalf, they are responsible for paying the costs and fees of your legal representation. With a nationwide practice, we have lawyers from coast to coast who can help you recover financially and emotionally from the harms that result from data reporting errors. And our initial consultation is always 100% free.

There are several ways to reach us: call (+1 877-615-1725), email ([email protected]), fill out the online intake form, or use our virtual chat option.

We look forward to helping you!


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About the author
Daniel Cohen
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Daniel Cohen is the Founder of Consumer Attorneys. Daniel manages the firm’s branding, marketing, client intake and business development efforts. Since 2017, he is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center. Mr. Cohen is a nationally-recognized practitioner of consumer protection law. He has a wealth of proven legal experience in the US in: collective claims, representing visually impaired people who believe their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act have been violated in both the physical and digital environments, corporate governance and dispute resolution. Read more

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