Author Topic: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law  (Read 13798 times)

maizeman

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HUD's new guidance warns that landlords could be breaking the law when they refuse to rent to people with criminal records — even if they have no intention to discriminate — because such a policy would likely have a disproportionate impact on African-American and Hispanic applicants.
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/04/472878724/denying-housing-over-criminal-record-may-be-discrimination-feds-say

Heard this story on the way to work this morning. I don't own rental property myself, but it seems like this would be a substantial shift, wouldn't it? However, I don't have a good sense of how common it is to consider criminal records in making rental decisions today.

I would be curious to hear what people with actual experience screening tenants think.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 06:26:23 AM by maizeman »

Drifterrider

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I've never run into that but depending on what the crime was, it could make a difference.

You smoked pot:  Meh

You ran a meth cook house:  NO!

rothwem

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People with criminal records are not a protected class. The issue that the article is talking about is denying minorities and saying it's because of the criminal record.

If I had to choose between two potential tenants that were otherwise equal, except for the record, I'd choose the guy/girl without the record 100% of the time, and I be 100% within my rights to do so. 
« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 09:28:06 AM by rothwem »

arebelspy

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The last part of that article was the only worthwhile part, IMO.  Treat everyone the same.

I wouldn't worry about de facto discrimination , unless I was at a large scale level, and then a more nuanced policy looking at types of convictions would be warranted.  Even then, one could argue de facto discrimination (as, say, homicides is likely disproportionate by race, or gang activity, or whatever).  But again, as the article notes, safety reasons are a legitimate concern.

Follow the advice at the end, and all other fair housing practices.  I wouldn't suddenly change my screening practices because of this initial warning from HUD.

This was good to know (where things may be shifting) though, so thanks for the link! :)
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Another Reader

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I have been waiting to see how this would play out.  It's a logical result from the disparate impact ruling.  If it becomes an agency policy enforced by HUD-backed lawsuits, I think a lot of small landlords will get out of the business.  It's simply not profitable to rent to most of these folks.  The large number of SFR's owned by small landlords will become owner-occupied or end up in the hands of corporate landlords with well-paid friends in Washington.  The net effect will be a reduction in the number of available rental units, especially SFR's.

I do not wish to rent to embezzlers, stick-up artists, wife beaters, and child molesters.  I don't want to saddle my neighbors with people that will prey on them and earn me a bad reputation as a landlord.  Neighborhoods that happen to have rentals will suffer as a result of this policy.   The law of unintended consequences will come into play.  Residents will complain to local authorities who will in turn create local agencies to regulate and discourage rentals.  Fewer rental choices will concentrate renters in poorer neighborhoods, where the complaining is not as loud or can safely be ignored by the local politicians.

Might be a good time to start thinking about exchanging out of SFR's and small multiple units into commercial and industrial properties....

Bigsacks

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The federal gov. is totally disconnected with the rest of the world, they are like their own tier in a tiered system of classes.....

1.  Rich
2.  Entrepreneurs
3.  Gov workers
4.  Working stiffs/slave class
5.  Welfare gov cheese/handout class

Class #1 controls everything.  Class #2 tries to be rich, tries to be left alone.....  Class #2 tries to be free.  Class #3 is what Class #1 uses as a weapon against Class #2.

I happen to work for class #3 as my day job (awesome insurance, benefits, vacation time....super easy job, way overpaid) and am class #2 during the rest of my life....I see it.

This is class warfare.....
« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 10:22:44 AM by Bigsacks »

Cassie

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When we had rental property in WI you could discriminate on anything you wanted in regard to rentals if you had fewer then 4 rentals in a building and the owner lived in one of them. I am sure this must have changed by now because I always thought that was terrible.  Even back then we did background checks on people to make sure we weren't living in the same building as a criminal.  No one ever failed though.

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In the UK there is a recent law which says you cannot rent to a tenant unless they can show that they are legally in the country.  Landlords as immigration control.  Likely to encourage discrimination, given the difficulties for a layperson in determining whether someone from any of 200 countries around the world is showing a valid passport and visa.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 05:15:22 PM by former player »

MsPeacock

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This from the article:" But blanket policies of refusing to rent to anybody with a criminal record are de facto discrimination, the department says — "

You can decline to rent from someone because of their specific criminal record, you just can't say "I don't rent to anyone with any criminal record ever" if I am reading this correctly. As a PP noted, you might review the record and see a sexual assault and say no vs. some minor crime from 20 years ago.


MrMonkeyMustache

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The smart thing to do would be to try to fix the bias of minoroties being more likely to be convicted assuming equal offences. Then refusing to rent because of a criminal record would no longer be indirect discrimination?

arebelspy

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2016, 01:13:13 AM »
This from the article:" But blanket policies of refusing to rent to anybody with a criminal record are de facto discrimination, the department says — "

You can decline to rent from someone because of their specific criminal record, you just can't say "I don't rent to anyone with any criminal record ever" if I am reading this correctly. As a PP noted, you might review the record and see a sexual assault and say no vs. some minor crime from 20 years ago.

Yes, but you'd better have it written before what you do/don't accept, because if you accept one with a certain type of record, and not another, they'll argue it was due to their [discriminating factor], not their criminal record.

The smart thing to do would be to try to fix the bias of minoroties being more likely to be convicted assuming equal offences. Then refusing to rent because of a criminal record would no longer be indirect discrimination?

Heck yes.  Fixing our racially biased criminal justice system sounds a lot more just.
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ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2016, 06:00:15 AM »
Public housing frequently has criminal record restrictions, doesn't it?

The government has created a problem here and now wants to pretend it's somebody else's fault. This also frustrates me with mayors campaigning to "Ban the Box". It's not employers and landlords marking people with criminal records, it's the government! They want to be "tough on crime" and send lots of people who aren't dangerous to jail, then suddenly they're "looking out for the downtrodden" when these people get out of the government's life-ruining facilities and have a hard time re-integrating in to society.

rothwem

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2016, 07:08:38 AM »
The smart thing to do would be to try to fix the bias of minoroties being more likely to be convicted assuming equal offences. Then refusing to rent because of a criminal record would no longer be indirect discrimination?

Heck yes.  Fixing our racially biased criminal justice system sounds a lot more just.

That's a pretty complex problem.  While we're at it, lets just cure cancer, world hunger, infant mortality, and terrorism too. 

arebelspy

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2016, 07:17:56 AM »
The smart thing to do would be to try to fix the bias of minoroties being more likely to be convicted assuming equal offences. Then refusing to rent because of a criminal record would no longer be indirect discrimination?

Heck yes.  Fixing our racially biased criminal justice system sounds a lot more just.

That's a pretty complex problem.  While we're at it, lets just cure cancer, world hunger, infant mortality, and terrorism too.

I agree, we should work on improving those things as well.
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MrMonkeyMustache

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2016, 07:46:18 AM »
I just see a connection between the "curing getting fat with buying bigger pants" solution. I mean, the real problem is that that minoroties are discriminated against, and you are complaining because you can't _further_ discriminate against them. And that's such an inconvinience for you and will cost you some money.

I understand that the restriction really affect the landlording business, but excuse me for not exactly crying you a river here.

MrMonkeyMustache

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2016, 07:49:04 AM »
Oh, and infant mortality is not really out of your control. Just need decent (not even that great) healthcare. But I guess that might cost _you_ some money, so let us instead complain about ...

I know I'm being a sarcastic dick here, but come on.

Daleth

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2016, 08:10:46 AM »
I've never run into that but depending on what the crime was, it could make a difference.

You smoked pot:  Meh

You ran a meth cook house:  NO!

Yes. I've never rented to anyone with a criminal record, but then the only criminal records I've ever seen on background checks were for vandalism. I was like, "You go around defacing other people's homes and buildings, and you want me to rent you mine? No thanks buhbye." I would obviously also decline for any type of violent crime or sexual offense (i.e. not just violent sexual offenses but also, e.g., flashing). I would even hesitate with mere pot possession, not because I have any ethical problem whatsoever with that but simply because IT STINKS and I don't want to have to deal with trying to get that smell out when the tenant leaves. For the same reason I don't like renting to smokers and would decline them if I had another potential tenant also interested in the place.

When we had rental property in WI you could discriminate on anything you wanted in regard to rentals if you had fewer then 4 rentals in a building and the owner lived in one of them. I am sure this must have changed by now because I always thought that was terrible.

AFAIK that's still true--if you live there and the building is small enough, discrimination laws don't apply.

bacchi

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #17 on: April 05, 2016, 12:59:38 PM »
When we had rental property in WI you could discriminate on anything you wanted in regard to rentals if you had fewer then 4 rentals in a building and the owner lived in one of them. I am sure this must have changed by now because I always thought that was terrible.  Even back then we did background checks on people to make sure we weren't living in the same building as a criminal.  No one ever failed though.

This is a federal law. An owner-occupier can discriminate against a protected class but can not advertise the discrimination. The law also applies to SFH rentals in certain, restricted, cases.

State law can trump the federal law.

elindbe2

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #18 on: April 05, 2016, 01:12:32 PM »
When you reject someone, be it for a relationship, a job or as a tenant, be vague.  Regardless of what your real reasons are, say you don't feel like they're a good fit.  If you accept them, say they seem like a good fit.  Decline to be more specific.  Following this simple rule means you never have to concern yourself with being convicted of the thought-crime of discrimination.

Cassie

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2016, 01:17:27 PM »
WE had a studio apt in our house with it's own outside staircase and i always rented to divorced working men because they were never home. Well a retired man filled out an app and I chose someone else and he said it was discrimination because he was old.  There were really 2 reasons that I didn't rent to him and one was that he would be home a lot and the other that it was upstairs and the staircase was not enclosed. I was afraid he would fall in winter. WE did put de-icer on all the time but he would be more likely to fall being older. I just told him that I had 10 applicants and chose someone else.  I always had more applicants then necessary because there was a shortage of nice studios at the time and it was nicely furnished down to dishes, etc so all you needed were your clothes and no other bills like electricity, etc since it was a big old SFH that we made the studio from. Eventually that rent paid our entire mortgage so needless to say when we had to move due to jobs we sold the house in a few days to a young couple who wanted to be in a good sized house with kids but couldn't afford it without the rent.

arebelspy

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2016, 10:02:15 PM »
When you reject someone, be it for a relationship, a job or as a tenant, be vague.  Regardless of what your real reasons are, say you don't feel like they're a good fit.  If you accept them, say they seem like a good fit.  Decline to be more specific.  Following this simple rule means you never have to concern yourself with being convicted of the thought-crime of discrimination.

That's not some magic formula.  It's very poor legal advice.

If you are allowed to discriminate due to only owning a few units, of course you shouldn't say why you're discriminating against them.  But if fair housing applies to you, just saying "good fit" or "not a good fit" is not going to handwaive away any problems.
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ShortStuff

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #21 on: April 12, 2016, 02:27:38 PM »
I had a summer legal internship at a nonprofit that received grant money from the federal government for filing discrimination lawsuits against landlords.  We'd be in housing court 2 times a week suing various landlords in the local county. It was really eye-opening and quite helpful if I do become a landlord one day. 

Some of the most common issues we saw were landlords posting advertisement on Craigslist saying "no families or no children" or "no section 8" (which is renters with housing subsidies). Even posting "only 1 person allowed" for a 1-bedroom apartment could imply that a Landlord is discriminating if the square footage for the unit was ample enough that health code regulations say that more than 1 person could safely live there.

Regarding potential tenants with criminal records: I wouldn't want certain convicted criminals renting my unit either.
It's best for a Landlord to screen Tenants using an established checklist, which will help to absolve you of any allegations of discrimination.  If you search the internet, there is likely a Landlord association in your state or county that would give you a good screening checklist.  Then you could select a tenant because he or she has better credit rating, or because their rent would be less than 25% of their income, etc. Those are legal reasons. 

A landlord should always run a sex offender search on any potential tenants as well.  This is a site used by many landlords: http://www.familywatchdog.us/

daverobev

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2016, 05:20:53 PM »
A landlord should always run a sex offender search on any potential tenants as well.

Devil's Advocate: Where would you like convicted sex offenders, felons, etc to live, once they have done their time? Should doing time not wipe away the penalty to society?

The bit in Arrested Development where all the sex offenders move out to the family's housing development is hillarious...

randymarsh

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2016, 06:43:42 PM »
It's not employers and landlords marking people with criminal records, it's the government! They want to be "tough on crime" and send lots of people who aren't dangerous to jail,

Who voted for those tough on crime politicians?

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #24 on: April 13, 2016, 12:59:46 PM »
It's not employers and landlords marking people with criminal records, it's the government! They want to be "tough on crime" and send lots of people who aren't dangerous to jail,

Who voted for those tough on crime politicians?

Where I am it's the same politicians running the police departments who want to "Ban the Box".

rachael talcott

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #25 on: April 16, 2016, 09:15:27 PM »
By the logic explained in the article, shouldn't a blanket policy requiring a minimum credit score also be problematic, since some minorities have on average lower credit scores than average?

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #26 on: April 16, 2016, 10:27:59 PM »
Yep, and that's where HUD is headed.  They are also requiring cities to amend their zoning codes to allow high density low income housing to be built anywhere.  Non-compliance means no HUD money.  I thought No Nonsense Landlord's comment over at early-retirement.org, where he posts as Senator, summed things up very well.

HUD is moving towards a non-screening requirement at some point in the future. If everyone screens the same, the entire renter population can disperse evenly without regards to criminal history, and eventually income. Even with housing developments, there is a larger focus on eliminating zoning laws, where multifamily high-density housing can be built in any neighborhood. It is unclear how this will impact the old adage of real estate of 'Location, location, location".

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #27 on: April 17, 2016, 07:43:45 AM »
Quote
HUD is moving towards a non-screening requirement at some point in the future. If everyone screens the same, the entire renter population can disperse evenly without regards to criminal history, and eventually income. Even with housing developments, there is a larger focus on eliminating zoning laws, where multifamily high-density housing can be built in any neighborhood. It is unclear how this will impact the old adage of real estate of 'Location, location, location".
Thanks for the following!

This is not law, it is a guideline.  I was just in a seminar about this, on 4/13.

Be consistent
Use a time frame you look back on criminal records.  A felony conviction from 30 years ago may be OK.  Have a  cut-off time frame.
Use convictions, not arrests.
Time will tell if this has legs.

Use other criteria too.  I use credit score a lot.  I do not make up the score, race does not play a factor.  It is absolute.

NoNonsenseLandlord

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #28 on: April 17, 2016, 07:49:24 AM »
When we had rental property in WI you could discriminate on anything you wanted in regard to rentals if you had fewer then 4 rentals in a building and the owner lived in one of them. I am sure this must have changed by now because I always thought that was terrible.  Even back then we did background checks on people to make sure we weren't living in the same building as a criminal.  No one ever failed though.

Race can NEVER a factor for any housing determination.  Not even for advertising a roommate in a studio apartment.  Sex or religion can be in a 4 or less building.

Daleth

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #29 on: April 19, 2016, 11:23:42 AM »
Devil's Advocate: Where would you like convicted sex offenders, felons, etc to live, once they have done their time? Should doing time not wipe away the penalty to society?

I don't care about their penalty to society. I care about whether they pose a danger to my other tenants in the same building or to my neighbors. A dude who was convicted of felony car theft at age 19 doesn't bother me as long as it's a decade or more later with nothing else since then. But a dude who was convicted of rape or child molestation? Never gonna rent to him, no matter how long ago it was. So far there's no cure for those tendencies, and I'm not going to trust the safety of my other tenants, my neighbors, local kids, etc. to the supposed self-control of a convicted rapist.

Gin1984

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #30 on: April 19, 2016, 11:31:57 AM »
I had a summer legal internship at a nonprofit that received grant money from the federal government for filing discrimination lawsuits against landlords.  We'd be in housing court 2 times a week suing various landlords in the local county. It was really eye-opening and quite helpful if I do become a landlord one day. 

Some of the most common issues we saw were landlords posting advertisement on Craigslist saying "no families or no children" or "no section 8" (which is renters with housing subsidies). Even posting "only 1 person allowed" for a 1-bedroom apartment could imply that a Landlord is discriminating if the square footage for the unit was ample enough that health code regulations say that more than 1 person could safely live there.

Regarding potential tenants with criminal records: I wouldn't want certain convicted criminals renting my unit either.
It's best for a Landlord to screen Tenants using an established checklist, which will help to absolve you of any allegations of discrimination.  If you search the internet, there is likely a Landlord association in your state or county that would give you a good screening checklist.  Then you could select a tenant because he or she has better credit rating, or because their rent would be less than 25% of their income, etc. Those are legal reasons. 

A landlord should always run a sex offender search on any potential tenants as well.  This is a site used by many landlords: http://www.familywatchdog.us/
Landlords are NOT required to take section 8.

JLee

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #31 on: April 19, 2016, 12:02:24 PM »
When we had rental property in WI you could discriminate on anything you wanted in regard to rentals if you had fewer then 4 rentals in a building and the owner lived in one of them. I am sure this must have changed by now because I always thought that was terrible.  Even back then we did background checks on people to make sure we weren't living in the same building as a criminal.  No one ever failed though.

Race can NEVER a factor for any housing determination.  Not even for advertising a roommate in a studio apartment.  Sex or religion can be in a 4 or less building.

From my understanding from a shared housing perspective, the restriction is in the advertising part, not the selection part.
http://www.craigslist.org/about/FHA#fsexemption

Quote
What are the laws for roommates and shared housing?
Federal Fair Housing laws for roommates and shared housing have two components: advertising and decision-making.

Advertising: Federal Fair Housing laws prohibit discriminatory advertising in all housing, regardless of how large or small the property. However, as discussed below, advertising which expresses a preference based upon sex is allowed in shared living situations where tenants will share a bathroom, kitchen, or other common area.
Decision-making: Although the prohibition on discriminatory advertising applies to roommate and shared housing situations, federal Fair Housing laws do not cover the basis of decisions made by landowners who own less than four units, and live in one of the units. This means that in a situation in which a landlord owns less than four rental units, and lives in one of the units, it is legal for the owner to discriminate in the selection process based on the aforementioned categories, but it is illegal for that owner to advertise or otherwise make a statement expressing that discriminatory preference.

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #32 on: April 19, 2016, 02:37:00 PM »
Landlords used to want references.  Are they still allowed to ask for those?  So, legally you guys are not supposed to discriminate against a convicted arsonist who burned down the last place he lived?  That'd suck.  Or some guy who refused to pay rent and managed to squat in his previous place until put in jail for fraud?  :(

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #33 on: April 19, 2016, 10:57:52 PM »
 I would never choose a tenant with a criminal record.

rachael talcott

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #34 on: April 20, 2016, 07:16:39 AM »
I would never choose a tenant with a criminal record.

This has always been my rule, too.  But it appears that this is now illegal, according to HUD.  And the burden of proof is on us:

"In the second step of the discriminatory effects analysis, the burden shifts to the housing provider to prove that the challenged policy or practice is justified --that is, that it is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest of the provider. The interest proffered by the housing provider may not be hypothetical or speculative, meaning the housing provider must be able to provide evidence proving both that the housing provider has a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest supporting the challenged policy and that the
challenged policy actually achieves that interest"

From: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=HUD_OGCGuidAppFHAStandCR.pdf

I'm not terribly worried that I will be sued -- I only have four units and have never advertised that I look for criminal history -- but it is not a good direction for HUD to go.  The criminal justice system may well be discriminatory, but I don't think landlords should bear the burden of figuring out whether someone was arrested unfairly. 

Bigsacks

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #35 on: April 20, 2016, 08:02:02 AM »
Like I said......

Daleth

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #36 on: April 20, 2016, 09:48:45 AM »
I would never choose a tenant with a criminal record.

This has always been my rule, too.  But it appears that this is now illegal, according to HUD.  And the burden of proof is on us:

"In the second step of the discriminatory effects analysis, the burden shifts to the housing provider to prove that the challenged policy or practice is justified --that is, that it is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest of the provider. The interest proffered by the housing provider may not be hypothetical or speculative, meaning the housing provider must be able to provide evidence proving both that the housing provider has a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest supporting the challenged policy and that the
challenged policy actually achieves that interest"

From: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=HUD_OGCGuidAppFHAStandCR.pdf

I'm not terribly worried that I will be sued -- I only have four units and have never advertised that I look for criminal history -- but it is not a good direction for HUD to go.  The criminal justice system may well be discriminatory, but I don't think landlords should bear the burden of figuring out whether someone was arrested unfairly.


The rule just appears to be that you can't have a blanket rule that you'll never rent to anyone with a criminal conviction. Your rule has to be narrower and related to protecting your property, other tenants, and perhaps neighbors (basically anyone who could sue you other than the prospective tenant). Quote from the same document you linked to:

"A housing provider that imposes a blanket prohibition on any person with any conviction record – no matter when the conviction occurred, what the underlying conduct entailed, or what the convicted person has done since then –will be unable to meet this burden."

So refusing to rent to someone who has a 20-year-old conviction for welfare fraud is totally different than refusing to rent to someone whose convictions directly relate to your interests (property and safety of others). A rape, burglary, or vandalism conviction is very different than a welfare fraud conviction. A conviction for drug dealing is too, since if they're still remotely involved in that they could be bringing very dangerous characters around. Even a conviction for personal use of drugs could be a problem if your lease specifically prohibits drug use (mine do).

Weedy Acres

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #37 on: April 22, 2016, 07:54:52 AM »
Landlords used to want references.  Are they still allowed to ask for those?  So, legally you guys are not supposed to discriminate against a convicted arsonist who burned down the last place he lived?  That'd suck.  Or some guy who refused to pay rent and managed to squat in his previous place until put in jail for fraud?  :(

Definitely still allowed and strongly recommended.  Go 2 landlords back to avoid a current landlord lying to you about a tenant they're trying to get rid of.

ANd visit where they currently live to get an idea of what your place will look like in a month.

Megma

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #38 on: April 22, 2016, 04:23:14 PM »
When you reject someone, be it for a relationship, a job or as a tenant, be vague.  Regardless of what your real reasons are, say you don't feel like they're a good fit.  If you accept them, say they seem like a good fit.  Decline to be more specific.  Following this simple rule means you never have to concern yourself with being convicted of the thought-crime of discrimination.

That's not some magic formula.  It's very poor legal advice.

If you are allowed to discriminate due to only owning a few units, of course you shouldn't say why you're discriminating against them.  But if fair housing applies to you, just saying "good fit" or "not a good fit" is not going to handwaive away any problems.

What about saying "we chose to rent to a more qualified applicant" I assume that is a No because from reading this page, you have to chose the first applicant who passes the screening? Maybe just "you did not meet our listed screening criteria" without saying which criteria, could've been a landlord reference or anything.

Thoughts?

SwordGuy

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Re: Not Renting to Tenants with Criminal Records Could Be Breaking the Law
« Reply #39 on: April 22, 2016, 09:03:13 PM »
We go thru a property management company.   I literally know nothing about the potential tenant other than their credit worthiness, their income, and their criminal record.   Even if someone was handicapped and wanted to make "reasonable accommodations" to the property for them to access it I would not actually know they had some health or mobility issue for sure.  It's possible they want their handicapped grandmother to be able to visit, for example.


That won't guarantee that I won't get sued (nothing can), nor will it guarantee I won't get slammed by a judge or jury (ditto), but it certainly reduces the odds.

I'll have to contact my property management company and ask for some guidance on this.


ShortStuff

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Landlords are NOT required to take section 8.

In the state I worked in, landlords could not outright refuse Section 8 vouchers.  See here:
http://www.masslegalhelp.org/housing/section-8-discrimination