Tenants with Criminal Records; A Continuing Evolution

In recent years a wide variety of laws have been enacted to protect individuals from potential disparate impact.  Ban-the-Box laws have eliminated the use of the question of past criminal history on the employment application and when a criminal background check can be conducted.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “The FHA is a legal act that protects individuals from discrimination in housing and HUD is tasked with protection.  Recently, HUD released updated guidelines on how to protect against disparate impact in housing during the application process.”

From the Village News, (Mar. 31, 17):

Disparate impact theory is when the housing provider has a facially neutral policy and applies it uniformly, but it impacts a group in one of the protected classes disproportionately than the other groups. Using the same policy as above, a housing provider may have a blanket policy of not allowing people who have been convicted of a felony and applies it uniformly to everyone who applies for housing. On its face, this does not seem like discrimination because the housing provider applies it to everyone and people who have been convicted of a felony are not a listed protected class in the Fair Housing Act. However, it could be discrimination under the disparate impact theory. (1)

Ultimately a landlord or property manager must utilize any and all policies for allowing an individual opportunity to rent in a fair, equal, and uniform manner.  To treat one individual differently from an existing policy would be disparate impact.  This could open up a landlord to legal action.

Disparate impact has been proven time and again, and a recent test by the Equal Rights Center has shown its impact.

Conducted by Kate Scott and staff of the ERC findings provided profound results:

From howhousingmatters.org (Mar. 30, 17):

  •  Housing providers exhibited more favorable treatment for the white female tester than the black female tester in 47 percent of the tests conducted.
  •  The black tester was only favored in 11 percent of the tests, while 42 percent of tests revealed no differential treatment.
  •  Twenty-eight percent of the screening policies for criminal records used by local housing providers may illegally cause a disparate impact based on race.
  •  Local housing providers should evaluate, revise, and increase the transparency of their criminal-record screening processes. (2)

Almeida states:  “A well-qualified third-party tenant screening agency should be able to assist any and all landlords and property managers in the creation and maintenance of a fully compliant tenant screening policy, one that can gather all the pertinent information required to make a well informed decision on a potential tenant.”

A tenant check can provide a landlord or property manager with the verification of information provided by an applicant.  This information includes:

·       Consumer Credit Reports

·       Eviction Information

·       Sex Offender Data

·       And Criminal History

 

Almeida states:  “Ultimately Criminal Records should remain a part of the tenant screening process but there are strict laws governing when a criminal record report can be pulled as well as for what purpose.  A solid tenant screening policy should include the exact reason information is pulled and how information is pulled in a uniform manner for all applicants.”

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 background information necessary in the tenant vetting process.

Notes:

(1)    villagenews.com/realestate/impact-excluding-tenants-prior-convictions/

(2)    howhousingmatters.org/articles/racial-discrimination-can-yield-differential-treatment-among-potential-renters-criminal-records/

 

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