Minneapolis lawmakers are considering a proposal that would force landlords there to accept tenants with criminal backgrounds, bad credit, and prior eviction history, and limit both general and pet deposits. Landlords are fighting back.
The proposed rental ordinance would prohibit landlords from rejecting tenants for felony convictions after five years, and misdemeanor convictions after two years. It makes exceptions for applicants who are registered sex offenders, those who manufactured meth, arsonists, and RICO – racketeering — offenses, but does not make exceptions for other sex crimes, stalking, domestic violence or other violent acts charged as misdemeanors.
These limits in criminal background checks are reflected in recent tenant screening guidelines from HUD. However, the Minneapolis proposal goes further than the HUD guidance in that it does not allow landlords to apply a variety of factors, including recent rental history, when deciding if an individual applicant is qualified for a specific rental property.
The proposal also goes further than other city governments in limiting the use of credit information and eviction history. These two aspects of tenant screening are based on an individual’s payment history, and often reflect a pattern of abusing landlords.
While the proposal is in draft stage, the Minnesota Multi Housing Association (MHA) already responded to the City Council in writing. In a letter, the MHA warns lawmakers that the ordinance will risk tenants’ safety, stifle new construction, and make it far more difficult for some tenants — including pet owners — to obtain rental housing. The MHA describes the ordinance as pitting “the few against the many to the benefit of no one.”
Opponents of the measure argue that forcing someone into a rental home over the landlord’s objections does not guarantee stable housing. The tenant could be evicted a month later when they find they can’t pay the rent, and some vulnerable tenants will secure housing that does not provide needed support to ensure the person’s success.
With regard to security deposit limitations, including restricting pet deposits to one-fourth of one month’s rent, MHA argues that the flexibility to match security deposits to potential risks allows landlords to offer people with marginal qualifications a second chance.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.