NEW YORK (MainStreet) — People with unique medical histories, who rent rather than own their homes or who issue insurance claims don’t appear on traditional credit reports. They have “specialized” credit reports that lenders use to measure credit risk.
Specialty credit reports are increasingly in the news these days, after one of the three big credit rating agencies – Experian (Stock Quote: EXPN) – announced in February that it would start including positive rental payment history in its consumer credit files.
“Rent is the single largest monthly expenditure for approximately one-third of the U.S. population, and until now it has been missing from credit bureau files,” says Experian in a statement. “This has been an industry-wide obstacle.”
In most circumstances, rental history isn’t reported to the major credit bureaus. Instead, specialty credit reporting companies report the figures, along with other out-of-the-ordinary consumer data like medical tests, previous insurance claims and employment history. But specialty reports operate largely in the shadows of the main reporting system.
“You could say that they are the unknown consumer report,” said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer group. “It’s grown tremendously, and it just does not get the media attention that credit reports receive.
Like regular credit reports, you can get a free specialty credit report once a year. But who holds specialty reports, and how do you get one? Try these companies for starters:
LexisNexis Publications database LexisNexis offers creditors data on property you own, your rental history and auto and property insurance records. Contrary to popular belief, people can’t use LexisNexis to screen potential dating candidates.
“At this time, you may only perform background checks for employment purposes or to check the records regarding your own background,” the site says.
Medical Information Bureau This site is big on insurance policies, notably life, health and disability insurance. You can get a free report by calling 866-692-6901.
CoreLogic SafeRent CoreLogic caters specifically to landlords, and particularly to landlords in the multifamily housing industry. Resident and criminal screening is this site’s bread and butter.
ChexSystems ChexSystems tracks your check writing and payment history, passing along that data to financial institutions that weigh the reports before allowing you to open a new account. You can get your free report online.
Under the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA), each specialty consumer credit provider must offer one free report annually to consumers. Make sure to take full advantage of that opportunity. While Experian may be including rental history on its credit reports, the other big boys do not, and none of them offer the specific consumer data that the specialists do.
Knowing what’s on those specialty reports could make a big financial difference to you down the line. And not knowing could cost you big time the next time you go looking for credit.
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