The Push to Restrict Criminal Background Checks in Rental Housing

by Chris on December 21, 2015

HUD just released new guidelines for public housing providers. In those new rules, these landlords are prohibited from using arrest records to reject rental applicants or evict tenants in some cases.

Restrictions on the use of criminal history is not new. Legislation known as “ban-the-box” has prevented employers from using arrest information to prevent some ex-cons from getting jobs. Now, HUD is integrating ban-the-box principles into rental housing.

tenant screeningHUD and the Department of Justice are working together to assist eligible public housing residents under 24 years of age to expunge or seal their records in accordance with their applicable state laws.

This program specifically excludes makers of meth on public housing property, sex offenders or those convicted of domestic violence.

The issue of criminal background checks is not limited to public housing. For instance, tenant advocates in Washington assist ex-cons in expunging their records, and lawmakers in Oregon have restricted the use of non-violent criminal history when selecting tenants.

Those tenant-friendly laws are in stark contrast to local “3-strikes” ordinances that hold landlords accountable for tenant crime. In those cases, a landlord may be forced to file for eviction against a tenant at the time of an arrest, rather than after a conviction for a crime.

In addition, courts have held landlords liable for negligence for failing to run criminal background checks where those tenants commit additional crimes at the property. A policy of ignoring criminal activity is a death knell to tenant retention.

If HUD’s recent actions are any indication, there may come a time when more private landlords will be limited in what they can do with criminal background information. However, it is likely that, regardless of limitations imposed by law, it will remain necessary for landlords to run a criminal background check in order to determine if a rental prospect could be a danger to other tenants or to the community.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in 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.

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