The last thing you or your residents would ever want is to have murderers, rapists, drug dealers, arsonists, and other dangerous criminals in your community. And because “criminals” aren’t among the people that fair housing laws protect, it’s okay to refuse to rent to persons who have a record of committing these crimes.
Wrong! Denying housing to a person on the basis of a criminal record potentially is a form of illegal discrimination. But since the fair housing laws don’t expressly say this, too many owners and property managers fail to recognize the existence of this liability risk, let alone take steps to manage it.
So, this month’s fair housing lesson deals with the thorny and frequently misunderstood issue of criminal record discrimination in the rental process. First, we’ll explain the legal basis for holding owners liable for a form of discrimination that the fair housing laws don’t even mention. We’ll then set out eight rules to help you carry out criminal background screening of rental applicants, regardless of whether the housing property is private, government-assisted, or public, without committing discrimination.