The City Council was unable to pass a bill that would have prevented landlords from running criminal background checks on potential tenants, due to lack of support. The bill, titled the Fair Chance for Housing Act, was introduced in August of 2020, but was just voted on this month.
Many argue that the bill would have not only created stress for tenants, but also liability for owners. If a landlord rented to someone with a criminal record, who then went on to commit a crime in the building, then that owner could face potential lawsuits from other tenants in the building.
Although, many tenants would want to know if a potential new neighbor has a criminal history, the potential bill would have often created worry for others. There has been a history of landlords discriminating against those who have been incarcerated. In these cases of discrimination based on incarceration, the landlord often does not care how long ago the individual was incarcerated or how good of a tenant they are. This is why those that were formally incarcerated are more likely to be homeless. It is important to note that those who have been incarcerated or those with criminal records are not necessarily predisposed to re-offend. In fact, six to seven years after an arrest, that person's risk of committing a new crime is nearly the same as someone with no previous record. Many have noted that age, not past criminal history is a better indicator regarding if someone will re-offend. People tend to age out of committing crimes by the time they reach 30 years old.
However, landlords do not always discriminate against those with criminal records. There have been many cases where landlords have rented to those that have committed crimes in the past. This is especially true when the offense was not serious.
There has been talk that the bill may return in 2022, if it garners more support.
By: Shayne Messing
Law Clerk, Moss & Tapia Law
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