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Should I give my potential "landlord" my SSN?

For applying to rent their properties, some landlords require us to fill out a detailed application. In the application, they ask for critical information such as:

1. Social Security Number
2. Birth date
3. Bank
4. Bank account numbers
5. Previous addresses

My questions are:

1. How do we know that the landlord is really what he claims to be? Maybe he is only collecting this information to sign up for credit cards in my name?

2. If I do disclose this information to the landlord, is there an authority I should make aware that I have given this information to such-and-such person?

3. What information by law, is a landlord really allowed to collect?

4. What does the landlord do with my information? What if he passes it on to a dishonest agency that claims to run credit checks but stores information on unsecure servers?

Thanks,
Salma

 
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Editor's Response

I do not know of any law that would prohibit landlords from asking for your social security number.  You, of course , are free to say no and look for an apartment elsewhere.  However, the landlord needs your social security number to obtain credit and and criminal histories. (Most rental applications and/or rental agreements contain language authorizing the landlord to obtain this information.)  As you can imaging, landlords are very interested in making sure that nay prospective tenants can afford to pay the rent and do not have a history of defaulting on debts. 

 

If the landlord has advertised a unit for rent and shown you an empty unit, it is probably safe to assume that he or she really is a landlord.  As for the scenarios you raise about the landlord using your information in inappropriate ways, you are describing activities that are crimes under federal and state law. For more information or to post a question, visit our MA Landlord Law Discussion Forum.

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