13 May New HUD Guidance On Criminal Background Checks
Recently, HUD has issued guidance on the use of criminal background checks in determining qualifications for apartment residents. Under the guidance, refusing to rent to someone on the basis that he or she has a prior conviction at some point – and nothing else – is illegal discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. The government utilizes the statistical link between high incarceration/conviction rates and minorities, thus finding that even though refusing to rent to convicts is not a form of illegal discrimination per se, it has a discriminatory effect on certain minorities.
In light of this position you may want to review your policy for qualifying an applicant who has a criminal conviction. Here are some guidelines you may want to consider:
- Do not check for arrest records.
- You may conduct background investigations into criminal convictions, but you may not have a blanket disqualification for those who have been convicted of crimes.
- You should conduct background checks later in the application process, after financial and other qualifications are verified.
- If you discover that a qualified applicant has a criminal conviction, you should determine if the conviction is relevant to the safety and security of the community. Factors include a) the type of conviction; b) underlying conduct; c) length of time between the conviction and the application; d) rehabilitation; e) conduct since the conviction; and f) other factors that demonstrate the applicant is qualified or not qualified to become a resident.
Prepared by Randy C. Gepp