A recent ban on criminal background checks in California’s Alameda County has housing experts buzzing. But it comes as only an extension of a policy set in motion by the Biden Administration in 2021:
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said, “The President and I believe that everyone deserves a second chance and a stable home from which to rebuild their lives. No person should exit a prison or jail only to wind up on the streets.” Fudge continued, “To that end, HUD is committed to taking a comprehensive approach to addressing the housing needs of returning citizens and people with criminal records, and by doing so, increasing public safety within our communities.”
What might this mean for you and your rental properties?
In Washington D.C., the Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2014 prohibits landlords from using an applicant’s criminal record as the sole reason for denying them housing. Landlords are also prohibited from asking about an applicant’s arrest record unless it resulted in a conviction.
Under this law, landlords are allowed to consider an applicant’s criminal record when making a rental decision, but they must also consider other factors such as the nature and severity of the crime, the length of time that has passed since the crime was committed, and any evidence of rehabilitation. Landlords must also provide a written notice to the applicant if they are denied housing based on their criminal record and provide information about the applicant’s right to appeal the decision.
It is important to note that this law only applies to rental housing and does not apply to owner-occupied housing or public housing. Additionally, the law does not prohibit landlords from performing criminal background checks or asking about criminal history during the application process. However, landlords must follow the rules outlined in the Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act when considering an applicant’s criminal record which include a two-part process of providing a conditional approval prior to reviewing background and criminal history.
The Bigger Picture
Banning criminal background checks for housing could have several consequences, both positive and negative. On the positive side, it could help reduce discrimination against individuals with criminal records and give them a better chance at finding housing. This is especially important because individuals with criminal records often face significant barriers to finding employment and housing, which can make it difficult for them to reintegrate into society and reduce their risk of recidivism.
However, there are also potential negative consequences to consider. One concern is that landlords may be hesitant to rent to individuals with criminal records if they have no way of screening them. This could lead to fewer rental opportunities for these individuals and potentially even more discrimination.
Another potential consequence is that banning criminal background checks could make landlords and other tenants feel less safe. While it is important to give individuals with criminal records a fair chance at finding housing, it is also important to ensure the safety and security of all residents. Without the ability to screen for criminal history, landlords may be hesitant to rent to anyone, which could ultimately make it more difficult for everyone to find housing.
Ultimately, the decision to ban criminal background checks for housing is a complex one that requires careful consideration of all potential consequences. While it is important to reduce discrimination and give individuals with criminal records a fair chance at finding housing, it is also important to ensure the safety and security of all residents.
Where Columbia Property Management Stands
We conduct criminal background checks for rental applications in compliance with District of Columbia and federal laws. We believe the 2014 Act is well thought out and reasonable. It balances the needs of housing providers with the intent of making it easier for returning citizens to have a fair shot at obtaining housing. It establishes concrete guidelines for landlords to follow when reviewing criminal records and states certain offenses should not even be considered a risk for rental housing.
As a premier property management company in DC we can help you mitigate the many challenges that face a small landlord when screening potential tenants. We remain in close contact with professional organizations and local legal experts to keep on top of changes in the legislation governing rental housing.
*this article was assisted by an AI engine then edited by Scott Bloom.
Scott Bloom, Owner and Senior Property Manager,
Columbia Property Management
Bloom founded Columbia Property Management in 2012. CPM’s goal is to provide a powerful, personal level of service to our clients. We focus on smaller landlords, professionally managing their assets, so they can succeed by investing in rental real estate.
Scott is an active member in multiple professional organizations including the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) and serves on the property management committee of Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS® (GCAAR).
For more information and resources, go to www.ColumbiaPM.com