You Make the Call: Did the landlord’s credit score minimum policy discriminate?
Ruling: The Oregon federal court says the prospect can sue the landlord for “adopting a policy that disproportionately makes housing unavailable to African-Americans.” True, the prospect never actually applied, but based on the testers’ evidence, the court agreed that applying would have just been a “futile gesture” [Owens v. Latitude Props., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61054].
Takeaway: Rental policies and practices that appear neutral on their face may be illegal if they have the effect of discriminating against a protected group. This is true even if there’s no intent to discriminate. For example, statistics show that African Americans and Hispanics are arrested, convicted, and incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates than whites with respect to their share of the general population. Thus, while categorically refusing to rent to any person with a criminal record may look like a legitimate safety policy, it has the effect of discriminating against African Americans and Hispanics.