Ban-the-box Legislation in Tenant Screening Will Be Game Changer, States TenantScreeningUSA.com

Recently Washington DC lawmakers have advanced a bill banning the question of “criminal history” from all tenant rental applications.  Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com opines: “The move by the DC City Council to ban-the-box on tenant applications is a game changer and could have significant consequence across the country.”

The Washington DC City Council has moved forward potential legislation that would ban-the-box on tenant applications.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com opines:  “The potential effect of the Washington DC City Council over banning-the-box on rental applications could have an enormous impact.  Much like ban-the-box legislation governing the fair, legal, and lawful use of criminal records in pre-employment background screening has had significant impact in employment screening a similar effect will be felt in tenant screening.”

From NextCity.com (Dec. 05, 16):

In language that closely mirrors “ban-the-box” legislation barring employers from asking about criminal history on job applications, a bill advanced last week by the D.C. City Council’s Committee on the Judiciary would prohibit landlords from asking potential tenants about prior convictions before making a housing offer, reports DCist. (1)

Ban-the-box legislation in employment removes the question of criminal history from the application and delays when the question of a criminal history can actually be asked during the hiring process.  In most cases the question of criminal history can only be asked after an offer of employment has been made to the candidate.
From NextCity.com (Dec. 05, 16):

Under the Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2016, co-introduced by McDuffie in April, landlords will not be allowed to ask about prior convictions before extending a conditional housing offer. Around 60,000 D.C. residents have criminal conviction records, according to the Washington Lawyer’s Committee, and about 8,000 more people are released each year.

Once landlords make a housing offer, they are allowed to take into account certain types of convictions — including rape, murder, assault, arson, robbery, sex abuse and fraud — if they’ve occurred in the past seven years. The offer can then be revoked only if the landlord determines “on balance, that the withdrawal achieves a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest.” (2)

Enacting ban-the-box legislation regarding rental properties is a move to reduce discrimination during the vetting process.

Almeida states:  “This legislation does not eliminate the use of criminal background records.  Rather, it controls the exact timing and use.

The action in Washington DC is not new as there are a few communities with intiatives such as Washington’s.  However, it is a clear indication of banning-the-box in the rental space gaining traction.  Property managers and landlords should take note.

From DCist.com (Nov. 30, 16):

While more than 100 cities and counties and 13 states have “ban the box” laws on the books, initiatives for housing applications are less common. San Francisco; Los Angeles; Dane County, Wisconsin; and Champaign, Illinois are among the handful of jurisdictions around the country with similar ordinances to the one the D.C. Council is considering. (3)

Almeida concludes:  “Again, the move by the DC City Council is a definite game changer, one landlords and property managers should immediately take note.  Working with a third-party tenant screening company is certainly a best practice specifically to stay in full compliance.”

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company with highly trained investigators well versed in the legal and lawful use of criminal history reports, and all public record reports, as part of a tenant check

Notes:

  1. nextcity.org/daily/entry/washington-dc-ban-the-box-housing-applications
  2. nextcity.org/daily/entry/washington-dc-ban-the-box-housing-applications
  3. dcist.com/2016/11/dc_council_committee_moves_to_ban_t.php

Tenant Screening 101 – A Review

What is tenant screening?

Tenant screening is a form of background screening utilized by landlords and property managers to vet applicants of rental property.  A rental property could be a room, house, or apartment.  Often times tenant screening is conducted on vacation rental properties for periods longer than a week or two.

Tenant screening utilizes information gathered from public reports.

What is a public report or record?

Any time a person interacts with a public agency information is obtained and stored.  The criminal justice system is one such source as is the department of motor vehicles.  Further, credit information drawn from one of the three major credit reporting agencies can be used in tenant screening under specific and special circumstances.

Which public records are being used in tenant screening?

Of the many different reports there are three key documents.

  1.      Consumer credit report
  2.      Evictions
  3.      Criminal History/Sex Offender Registry

A Consumer Credit report – This report is provided by a credit bureau and contains information on an applicant’s credit worthiness or ability to pay.  A credit report contains information on loans and credit arrangements, including contracts and revolving credit plans.  It will also contain critical payment information as well as action taken by issuers of credit.  Consumer credit reports can only be created after an applicant provides explicit written permission and has been informed of individual rights regarding the ability to correct any information and acquire a copy of the report used during the tenant background check.

Evictions – This report provides information on a potential tenant’s rental history.  Just as the name suggests an eviction report shows any history of eviction from previous landlords or property managers.

Criminal History/Sex Offender RegistryCriminal background checks will provide any recordable interaction with the justice system, primary the police or sheriff departments.  This may include minor misdemeanors or major felonies.  It should be noted that recent actions by the Department of Housing and Urban Development may restrict the use of criminal history.

Are there other reports available to a landlord?

A landlord can gain access to any public record.  Other records that may be of interest include:  Civil Records, Nationwide Criminal, Liens and Judgments, and Verifications. A best practice for a landlord would be to let a renter know exactly what information is being requested and used.

Should the owner of a small apartment building or single family dwelling use a tenant screening company?

Regardless of property size a landlord or property manager should use a third-party tenant screening company.

A well-qualified tenant screening company maintains compliance and understanding of all rules, regulations, and laws governing the use of public records.  Further, a tenant screening company will have the security and systems in place that can maintain, control and store all the sensitive information used during the tenant screening process.

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party background screening company that provides tenant checks to landlords and property managers for all sizes and types of rental complexes.  From the single-unit to the large community, TenantScreeningUSA.com has the ability to customize a tenant screening package specific to a managers unique requirements.

Registered Sex Offenders and Housing: A Situation Guaranteed to Challenge

Conducting a background check on new tenants (often referred to as a tenant check) has one purpose:  Risk Mitigation.  There are three key areas a landlord or property manager wants to mitigate risk:

  1.      Property
  2.      Perception
  3.      People
  •          The protection of property is obvious.  A landlord wants to keep a property fully occupied and in working order.  Without occupancy there is no income.  An empty apartment or house that requires a great deal of repair is costly.  And the longer the property sits empty and unoccupied the greater the loss.
  •          The protection of perception is a little trickier to define.  Everyone knows that one apartment complex that lacks in repair, engages in frequent police activity or has walls covered in numerous tags; essentially unkempt and falling apart.  The perception of this property is very low and the opportunity to upgrade that perception in order to attract a more viable clientele can be a challenge.
  •         Protecting people is, perhaps, the most important duty of a landlord or property manager during the tenant vetting process.  Many of the public records that might be utilized are specific to the person.  These reports will contain information about an individual’s past that may highlight indiscretions or legal issues that could indicate future behavior.

When one considers these three segments of risk mitigation tenant screening, along with a thorough interview and complete application, can greater assist in eliminating or substantially decreasing risk.

One of the more complex considerations faced within tenant screening is an applicant who is on the national sex offender registry.  Placement on the registry occurs when an individual is convicted of a sex-based crime, either misdemeanor or felony.  Subsequently, regardless the severity of the conviction, placement on the registry could follow an individual through the entirety of their life.

For example, a low-level misdemeanor conviction for public urination is often phrased as indecent exposure or public lewdness, both offenses that may require registering as a sex offender.

Housing for registered sex offenders often follow strict guidelines.  Each state has specific requirements for where an offender can take up residence.  These rules often require living a certain distance away from gathering places for minors, such as schools, parks and churches.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “It is important that a landlord use a tenant background check the right way and in an intelligent way.  There is no law that states a landlord must rent to a registered sex offender. The severity of the crime may be a guide for a landlord, but protecting existing tenants, especially families, is of equal or higher consideration.”

Third-party tenant screening companies can provide landlords and property managers the information needed to make a well informed decision about an individual.  Sex offender registry information can be provided as part of a tenant screening package.

When push comes to shove, landlords discovering an applicant on a registry may have a difficult choice to make, one that is generally not covered under code or law.  While it is true that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has recently released new guidance on the use of Criminal Records as a part of the tenant vetting process, the use of sex offender registry information is entirely on the landlord.

While the decision over which tenant to select can be a challenge, access to information is not.  TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company with the ability to provide fast, accurate, low-cost information that allows a landlord a little more peace of mind in making decisions.

Unlawful Detainers: At the Center of Landlord/Property Manager Challenges

“There are a number of terms within the rental and tenant screening world that can sometimes be confusing and unlawful detainer is one such term,” states Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com.  Often used interchangeably with evictions, unlawful detainers are specifically: “The act of retaining possession of property without legal right.”(1)

One of the great challenges a landlord and/or property manager faces is dealing with the legal aspect of renting.  From the application process and tenant screening through the potential of eviction, the process of renting property can be enormously complex, especially for new landlords.

During the application process landlords and/or property managers go through several steps in the process of selecting a new tenant.  First and foremost is the application.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “Rental applications should be very clear and very uniform among potential renters.  Special care should be taken in regards to specific questions asked on applications.  Recently the Department of Housing and Urban Development put out a guidance regarding the legal and lawful use of Criminal Records during the application process.”

There are a wide variety of public and private records and information points that can be gathered and utilized to verify information collected on a rental application.

One piece of information that is front and center during the vetting process is eviction.  Eviction reports can show information on tenants that were legally removed from a rental property.

It is important to note that many landlords/property managers use the term Unlawful Detainer interchangeably with Evictions.  For the new landlord this can be confusing.

Unlawful Detainer, in regards to tenant screening, can be defined as:

“The term unlawful detainer ordinarily refers to the conduct of a tenant who is in possession of an apartment or leased property and refuses to leave the premises upon the expiration or termination of the lease.” (2)

In short Unlawful Detainer is a legal action landlords use to evict a tenant.

Almeida adds:  “Bare in mind that Unlawful Detainer action in the courts can be complicated and confusing for newer landlords.  The eviction process as a whole is time consuming and expensive.  A best practice is to utilize a third-party tenant screening company in order to prevent the potential of eviction.”

As a tool for landlords Unlawful Detainer can be effective.

From the California Department of Consumer Affairs webpage (dca.ca.gov):

Recent laws designed to abate drug dealing and unlawful use, manufacture, or possession of weapons and ammunition, permit a city attorney or prosecutor in selected jurisdictions to file an unlawful detainer action against a tenant based on an arrest report (or other action or report by law enforcement or regulatory agencies) if the landlord fails to evict the tenant after 30 days’ notice from the city. The tenant must be notified of the nature of the action and possible defenses. (3)

Almeida states:  “In the end a best practice for landlords and property managers is to do the homework upfront.  Conduct the application, review the data, confirm through a tenant background check utilizing a well-qualified third-party tenant screening agency.”

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company available to provide all the data and information a property manager requires in making a sound decision on a potential tenant.  With a well-trained and highly dedicated staff, TenantScreeningUSA.com can perform criminal background checks, eviction record checks and professional reference verifications.

Notes:

(1)   legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Unlawful+Detainer

(2)   legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Unlawful+Detainer

(3)   dca.ca.gov

Evolving Trends in New Student Housing Still Include Tenant Screening; States TenantScreeningUSA.com

Increasingly college housing has become upscale and a recent student housing project at Arizona State points to emerging trends to fit the needs and requirements of incoming and existing college students.  Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “College housing can be an important part of the college experience and whether it is a new project or an existing home or apartment, tenant screening will always remain a key part in vetting college students looking to rent.”

As thousands of students start or return to the college environment many will be moving into student housing.  Over the years student housing has evolved from a simple dormitory or off-campus apartment to luxurious high scale housing projects.  Regardless the type of facility tenant screening should always be an integral part of the student rental applicant vetting process.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “The importance of vetting a first time renter, in this conversation a college student, is no different than vetting an older, experienced renter.  Risk mitigation is the key factor in tenant background screening and there is no better environment than college housing that should be risk adverse.”

A recent project at Arizona State has highlighted the changing trends in student housing:

From Urbanland.uli.org (Aug. 01, 16):

The market has been indicating a strong preference for pedestrian-oriented student housing close to campus, with amenities and conveniences and perhaps some mixed retail on site. However, well-located property costs have risen, municipal permits and approvals have a longer gestation period now, and the cost of construction has soared. This has thinned developers’ profit margins and forced rents higher than in years past. To combat these challenges, a lot of developers are constructing some of their own buildings—becoming a general contractor to take out the extra layer of fees that would be involved with a third party. And these factors have forced the square footage of the units to be smaller than in years past, to save costs. (1)

Almeida states:  “Changing cost models may force cuts in spending in other areas, such as tenant screening.  However this would be a mistake.  For a relatively low cost, a tenant background check can greatly assist a landlord or property manager in making a well-informed decision about a potential tenant.”

Ultimately student housing remains a big business.  As noted by the Arizona State project, student housing projects are on the rise and big business for the private sector.

From Bloomberg.com (Aug. 01, 16):

The long-term theme is that college enrollment has boomed over the past few decades, and investment in new on-campus dorms hasn’t come close to keeping up. In the short term, the shares are likely rising because investors are looking to hedge against the possibility of a U.S. recession.

“In an environment of striking political and economic uncertainty, public investors are ascribing value to [the] certainty of cash flows in student housing,” said Ryan Burke, an analyst at Green Street Advisors. “In [the] young life of purpose-built student housing, it’s performed really well in good and bad times.” (2)

Almeida adds:  “Student housing continues to be a big business and will continue to grow as enrollment expands.  As the values of these properties and, subsequently, the rent rates increase it is critical for landlords and property managers to work with a well qualified tenant screening company for all tenant checks. To protect property and person and mitigate risk.”

A third-party tenant screening company can provide easy access to a wide variety of public records and verifiable references.  With a young renter without a significant credit history a reference verification may be the most important piece of information for a property manager.

Almeida concludes:  “Get the credit report, conduct the tenant check, and let a third-party verify all references.  They have the systems and processes available to be able to fulfill all the requirements of a landlord or property manager quickly, efficiently, and in a cost effective manner.”

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company available to provide all the data and information a property manager requires in making a sound decision on a potential tenant.  With a well-trained and highly dedicated staff, TenantScreeningUSA.com can conduct and compile all reference verification.  Save money and time by working with TenantScreeningUSA.com.

Notes

  1.   urbanland.uli.org/industry-sectors/residential/outlook-student-housing/
  2.   bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-01/these-landlords-are-making-a-killing-on-college-students

 

 

 

Recent Thefts at Self-Storage Units Highlight Need to “Think Outside the Box” With Background Screening

There are numerous and very obvious areas where background screening is an important tool.  Pre-employment screening may be first on the list of obvious choices.  A significant number of businesses and organizations do background screening, at least minimally, as background checks have proven to provide critical and important information that greatly assists hiring managers.  But there are numerous other areas where background screening may prove useful.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of CriminalBackgroundRecords.com states:  “Ultimately a background check, whether it is for employment related services or in other areas, is about mitigating risk.”

Mitigating risk falls into a couple different categories.

  •      Protection of person –
  •      Protection of property –

When one thinks about the protection of person the best example may be tenant screening.  A landlord or property manager’s primary responsibility is to protect tenants and protection comes in many forms.  Locking gates, secure entry and exit, well maintained landscapes and tenant screening.

Protection of property may be illustrated in pre-employment screening.  It would be simple to think of pre-employment background checks as a tool used only to protect current employees from potential threat from new employees but this aspect is just a part of the story.  Pre-employment background checks protect property as well, specifically considering theft or damage of property.  Through the collection and dissemination of critical information gathered from public records and verifications a hiring manager will have a heightened ability to make an informed decision about hiring a given individual.

But one area background screening may not seem readily present is with the rental of self-storage units.

From insideselfstorage.com (no date given):

In fact, the easiest way to get around your security is to become a tenant. This may be shocking, but if you think about it, it’s quite brilliant. A thief who’s a tenant has easy access to units and can literally walk right past you without causing a doubt in your mind. You might have a break-in every month, increase security accordingly, and never know the burglar was right under your nose the whole time.

What’s even worse is these crimes won’t just cost you time and money; they’ll cost you customers and your company’s reputation as well. (1)

Almeida states:  “It is important to understand that background checks, regardless of who or why, must always remain compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  A third-party background screening or tenant screening company would be a best practice for Self-Storage facilities.”

From insideselfstorage.com:

The best thing you can do is initiate strict tenant-screening practices that include background, credit and rental-history checks. (2)

Tenant screening is a relatively simple process that draws information from public records as well as verifications collected through phone conversations.  Certainly not all reports would apply.

Sample reports might include:

  • Consumer Credit Report – Validate financial wherewithal.
  • Eviction Record – This report shows traditional evictions from rental properties but could expose a pattern of behavior that could be of concern to the self-storage landlord.
  • Personal References – Verification.
  • Criminal History

Almeida states:  “The use of criminal history in many instances has come into question and further illustrates the need for self-storage landlords to work with third-party tenant screening companies.”
When it comes to mitigating risk the use of a background check is an important and, often, critical tool utilized by a wide variety of companies and organizations.  Managers of self-storage units may want to use a tenant-check to further protect existing and new clients.

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party background screening company that provides tenant background checks to landlords and property managers for all sizes and types of rental complexes, including self-storage.  From the single-unit to the large community, TenantScreeningUSA.com has the ability to customize a tenant screening package specific to a managers unique requirements.

Notes:

  1. insideselfstorage.com/articles/2016/06/screening-your-selfstorage-tenants-preventing-internal-threats-to-your-business.aspx
  2. insideselfstorage.com/articles/2016/06/screening-your-selfstorage-tenants-preventing-internal-threats-to-your-business.aspx

 

A Hot Vacation Rental Market and Tenant Screening Go Hand-In-Hand

The key to tenant screening is risk mitigation.  Risk may involve person or property.  Long-term renters are screened for financial worthiness as well as reliability.  A landlord or property manager may require a credit check, eviction records and, where legal, criminal history.  Often, personal and professional references are a part of the tenant screening process.

In the shorter term, that is a week to a month plus rental range, a tenant background check should be equally robust.  Just as with long-term renters the key is risk.  And with a hot vacation rental market a tenant check can assist a property manager or landlord in acquiring a solid tenant.

A number of short term vacation rentals come in the form of second homes.  Instead of selling a home in order to buy a new home in a different part of town or a smaller home people may consider keeping a home to rent out, especially if the property is in a highly desirable location.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “While not everyone can own a second home in Hawaii or Malibu there are numerous locations across the country, especially along the shore that make excellent rental opportunities.”

From the Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com; Mar. 17, 16):

The robust monthly market has encouraged landlords who used to rent long term to concentrate on short-term rentals. (1)

But the decision to rent out a property as a short term rental should not be taken lightly.  There are many steps and challenges involved with renting a home or property.

Key among the steps toward being a landlord is a tenant check but even this task can provide challenges.

Almeida states:  “Understanding that risk mitigation is key to a successful rental relationship, landlords should screen a potential tenant for a short-term rent just as they would for a longer, open ended relationship.  Understanding past behavior will inform future behavior.”

Many rental market publications indicate the need to screen tenants for short term rentals as one of the critical steps.

From realestate.usnews.com (Feb. 24, 16)

It’s important to screen tenants, collect a damage deposit and have a strong rental agreement in place, as well as the proper insurance, to protect your home from damage.  (2)

A tenant check for a short term rental could include the following reports and data points:

1.      Credit Check – Financial wherewithal is key, certainly.  Many rental arrangements demand half of the rental payment up front, a deposit, and the remainder on departure.  For highly popular and up-scale rentals a landlord may want to know the backend payment will be forthcoming.

2.      Evictions – Given the rental is a short-term stay evictions may not seem to be an important report.  However, an evictions report could inform a landlord to past behavior of the renter thus the potential risk to property.

3.      References – Whether it is a long term arrangement or short term references can greatly assist a landlord in making a smart decision about a potential tenant.

Almeida states:  “Ultimately a landlord of a short term vacation rental should work with a well qualified third-party background screening company in order to remain fully compliant with law as well as to provide information in a simple, low-cost manner.  A third-party tenant screening company has the tools and ability to provide information in a quick, efficient manner.”

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party background screening company that provides tenants checks to landlords and property managers for all sizes and types of rental complexes.  From the single-unit to the large community, TenantScreeningUSA.com has the ability to customize a tenant screening package specific to a managers unique requirements.

Notes:

(1)    wsj.com/articles/malibus-summer-rental-market-booms-1458223281

(2)    realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/what-to-know-before-renting-out-your-vacation-home/

In Light of Recent Guidance from HUD, Sex Offender Registry Checks Presumed to Remain Lawful?

In April 2016 the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a new “guidance” governing the use of criminal history reports as part of a tenant background check.  Essentially, criminal background records should be severely limited in use due to the potential of discrimination against various protected classes.

From WestfairOnline.com (Apr. 14, 16):

The HUD Office of General Counsel (OGC) finds that because African-Americans are arrested and convicted in higher numbers compared to the general population, they suffer a disparate impact when landlords disqualify tenants solely on the basis of arrests or felony convictions. (1)

In certain cases, specifically in the public housing area, exceptions remain regarding the use of criminal history.

From Lexology.com (Apr. 29, 16):

HUD’s regulations require a criminal background check of applicants for federally-assisted public housing and reject those having a household member who is currently using illegal drugs, has been previously evicted from federally-assisted public housing for drug-related criminal activity in the past three years, or is a registered sex offender. State and federal regulations also list other prior criminal activity that may, but is not required to, be disqualifying. (2)

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “Access to sex offender registry for purposes of tenant screening in the private sector is not well defined, at least in regards to the new guidance. As it is a very important record and approved for public housing screening the potential for the lawful use of sex offender reports appears high for private sector tenant screening.”

The question of utilizing a sex offender registry is important.  Technically, a sex offender registry is a report of criminal records, which is prohibited by the HUD guidance.  However, without specific inclusion it may be presumed lawful.  The vagueness of this detail highlights the need for a third-party tenant screening company to conduct tenant checks.

Almeida states:  “A third-party tenant screening company will remain up-to-date in all laws governing the use of criminal records and histories as part of a tenant check, including sex offender registry records.”

From Washington Multi-Family Housing Association (www.wmfha.org; Apr. 14, 16):

Unfortunately, the HUD Guidance does not mention sex offenders or persons with convictions for terrorism.  We can only assume that this was an oversight and that landlords can still reject persons with sex offenses who are required to register as sex offenders under state law.  (3)

The span and scope of the new HUD guidance has not gone without criticism, especially in regards to clarity over the lawful use of sex offender registry.

From an Op-Ed on GrantCountyBeat.com (Apr. 15, 16):

There is only one specific exception to the rule; those convicted of manufacturing or distributing illegal drugs. Why not sex offenders too? So if I decide that someone with a history of burglary or assault, maybe 2 or 3 convictions, is not eligible, because I want to protect my property and/or the neighbors, I now have to consider whether or not I’ll be accused of unfair discrimination and could potentially lose my property because I don’t have the cash to pay the fine. (4)

Almeida states:  “Ultimately working with a third-party tenant screening company is a best practice.  A tenant screening company will have the knowledge and understanding of all laws and regulations, and guidance, governing the fair, legal, and lawful use of public records, including sex offender registry records.”

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company with highly trained and skilled operators working within the rules and regulations of tenant screening as defined by HUD and the Fair Housing Act.  With the ability to access information from databases and county courthouses, TenantScreeningUSA.com can provide the information required for landlords and tenants of properties large and small.

Notes:

  1.  westfaironline.com/78758/column-hud-protects-a-criminals-right-to-housing
  2.  lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=b3336cb2-3efe-4bb2-b5f1-84c9026cd532
  3.  wmfha.org/news/284524/New-HUD-Guidance-on-Criminal-Background-Screening-and-Fair-Housing.htm
  4. grantcountybeat.com/columns/undeniably-right/28518-new-hud-rule-will-hurt-landlords-and-tenants

 

New HUD Guidance to Have Broad Affect on Housing Market, Including LGBTQ Community, States TenantScreeningUSA.com

Recently the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a new guidance regarding the fair and lawful use of Criminal Records as part of the vetting process for new tenants.  Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com, a well known and widely respected third-party tenant screening company, states:  “With the new guidance from HUD, private property landlords and property managers must pay close attention to their tenant screening policies, and must insure the fair and lawful use of criminal records so as to not illegally preclude housing to individuals of a protected class, such as the LGBTQ community.”

With the release of new guidance by the Department of Housing and Urban Development the legal and lawful manner in which criminal background records are used as part of the tenant vetting process have been fundamentally changed.  Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “Essentially HUD has stated that housing cannot be denied to individuals with a criminal history.”

From DallasVoice.com (Apr. 04, 16):

The Department of Housing and Urban Development today (Monday, April 4) released a new policy that would eliminate housing discrimination against people with a criminal history.

The new policy clarifies that using criminal history to justify a negative housing decision, such as the refusal to rent to or renew a lease for someone, or the refusal to sell to or to give someone a mortgage on a new home, may violate the Fair Housing Act. (1)

HUD is tasking with the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act as well as the elimination of intolerance and discrimination against protected classes.  One such class is the LGBTQ community.

From DallasVoice.com (Apr. 04, 16):

“We know [LGBT people] are disproportionately likely to be involved with the criminal legal system. A lack of stable housing exacerbates challenges for people who may also struggle with getting jobs, physical and mental healthcare, and other supports based on their criminal record. We look forward to seeing how providers change their standards to comply with this clarifying guidance.” (2)

Certainly the availability of affordable housing is a critical issue affecting many of the major cities across the United States, and the ability to find housing while living with a criminal record further compounds the challenge.

From NationalHomeless.org (No date provided):

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) individuals face a particular set of challenges, both in becoming homeless as well as when they are trying to avoid homelessness. LGBT persons face social stigma, discrimination, and often rejection by their families, which adds to the physical and mental strains/challenges that all homelessness persons must struggle with. (3)

Almeida states:  “These changes by HUD have a broad impact.  Subsequently, it is extremely critical that landlords and property managers of private property rental units work with a third-party tenant screening company in order to remain fully compliant with the law, and regulations.  HUD will increasingly scrutinize rental transactions and policies, and failure to comply could be costly.”

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company well versed in all laws and regulations governing the use of personal data gathered for tenant background checks.  With a highly trained staff, TenantScreeningUSA.com can develop fully compliant and highly effective screening packages for properties large and small.

Notes:

(1)               dallasvoice.com/national-lgbtq-task-force-praises-hud-guidance-targeting-discrimination-based-criminal-history-10217163.html

(2)               dallasvoice.com/national-lgbtq-task-force-praises-hud-guidance-targeting-discrimination-based-criminal-history-10217163.html

(3)               nationalhomeless.org/issues/lgbt/

 

The Use of Criminal Records in Tenant Screening May be Poised for a Change, States TenantScreeningUSA.com

Recently, actions by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) severely limiting the use of criminal histories as a part of tenant screening in the public housing section points to a potential change in the private sector as well.  Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “The actions of HUD combined with recent public outcry strongly suggests the use of criminal records as part of tenant screening may be set for a change and the use of a third-party tenant screening company is now increasingly important.”
In late 2015 the Department of Housing and Urban Development released new guidance over the fair and lawful use of criminal records as part of the tenant vetting process in public housing. (1)  Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “New guidance rules from HUD regarding the use of criminal records and public housing combined with growing public outcry suggests that laws and regulations governing criminal background records used with tenant screening will be modified; and it is now critical that landlords and property managers work with well qualified third-party tenant screening companies in order to ensure continued compliance.”

In the last several years the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has attempted to limit the use of criminal records as part of the pre-employment vetting process.  Tasked with upholding laws against discrimination of all forms, the EEOC has worked with HUD in order to reduce and eliminate discrimination in housing.

Almeida states:  “Governmental agencies continue to work toward a discrimination-free work and living environment.  They continue to push for greater protections and law in order to work toward this goal.”

Housing has long been an area of concern, especially as related to individuals with criminal records.  Finding housing that will accept someone with a conviction is a significant challenge, especially with women.

From HumanityInAction.org (No date given):

Since 1977 female imprisonment in the United States has ballooned 757 percent. Female incarceration rates are rising faster than any other population. Upon release from prison, in order to successfully reenter their communities, women identify housing as one of their most urgent needs. A safe, decent and affordable home is essential for human survival and dignity.

However, women with criminal records are often denied access to housing, a violation of what many consider a basic human right. An overwhelming majority of women leaving prisons across the country are low-income women of color. Women of color comprise 60 percent of female inmates, and black women are about six times more likely to be incarcerated than white women. (2)

As individuals attempt to reenter the workplace housing will remain a high priority.  Unfortunately, in many instances, the appearance of a criminal record on a housing application may remove that individual from consideration.  Subsequently, many ex-cons reentering society are left with few options.

From an opinion piece on www.BuffaloNews.com (Feb. 20, 16):

Studies show that barriers in housing contribute to criminal recidivism. Therefore, as long as background checks limit housing opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, we as community members have enormous impact on the success of someone’s release. Access to housing can be the difference between returning to prison or retaining employment, reuniting with family and reintegrating. (3)

Almeida states:  “Just as Ban-the-Box legislation started as a grass roots movement and significantly altered the way criminal records can be used in pre-employment background screening, so too will the use of criminal records as utilized with tenant screening.  It is likely that HUD will begin to use the court system as a means of enforcing the fair and legal use of criminal records in housing and landlords and property managers must be prepared for change.  Working with a third-party tenant screening company is a best practice and now an urgent need.”

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company well versed in all laws and regulations governing the use of personal data gathered for tenant background checks.  With a highly trained staff, TenantScreeningUSA.com can develop fully compliant and highly effective screening packages for properties large and small.

Notes:

(1)   portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=PIH2015-19.pdf

(2)   humanityinaction.org/knowledgebase/178-the-second-sentence-obstacles-to-public-housing-in-new-york-city-for-women-with-criminal-records

(3)   buffalonews.com/opinion/another-voice/another-voice-time-to-reframe-criminal-background-checks-in-housing-20160220