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Experian adds rental payment histories to credit reports

Renters who need to build their credit histories are getting a leg up from a major consumer credit-reporting firm.

Experian is incorporating rental payment data from its recently acquired RentBureau unit into its traditional credit file, which the company says will make it easier for college students, recent graduates and immigrants who pay their rent on time to boost their credit scores.

Typically, credit reports include payment history on credit cards, mortgages, installment loans and retail and finance company accounts.

Experian’s move is well-timed, as the U.S. homeownership rate is at its lowest level since 1998. It was 66.5% in the fourth quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Still, there are limits to Experian’s effort. RentBureau’s database receives rental payment histories daily from property managers, but so far its records encompass only 8 million residents. The nation has 37.7 million rental units, census data show.

Experian acquired RentBureau in June, and last month it started including its data into the company’s traditional consumer credit reports.

It’s “one more thing that lenders, landlords, insurance agents and even employers can learn about you,” said Bill Hardekopf, chief executive of LowCards.com, a credit card comparison website.

Hardekopf added, “This could be great news for renters who dream of owning their own home.”

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Experian claims to be the first and only major credit reporting company to include residential rental payment data in credit reports.

TransUnion, a subsidiary, also collects rental payment data and supplies them, with credit information, to landlords to help them screen potential tenants. But rental payment history isn’t available in the basic credit file for routine credit inquiries, spokesman David Blumberg said.

byerak@tribune.com


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