Pushback and Confusion from Landlords Regarding HUD Guidance Complicates Tenant Screening, States TenantScreeningUSA.com

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In April 2016 the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released new guidance over the fair and lawful use of Criminal Records as part of the tenant screening process; a move designed to improve the ability of individuals with criminal records to find housing. Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states: “The new HUD guidance appears relatively simple but ultimately may create a great deal of confusion for landlords and property managers and as it is a hugely significant change in policy governing the use of specific public records.”

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As the HUD guidance goes into effect it greatly behooves all landlords and property managers to work with a third-party tenant screening company in order to maintain full compliance and avoid any potential litigation.

With the significant shift in policy over the fair and lawful use of criminal background records as part of tenant screening, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has thrust the burden of an individualized screening policy squarely on landlords and property managers. Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states: “Landlords are now forced to review tenants on a more individualized basis and must move away from any broad-based review policy based solely on criminal record history or otherwise face potential litigation from HUD.”

Recently an article appeared at NPR.org highlighting the changes related to the new HUD guidance.

From npr.org (Apr. 04, 2016):

People with criminal records aren't a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, and the guidance from HUD's general counsel says that in some cases, turning down an individual tenant because of his or her record can be legally justified.

But blanket policies of refusing to rent to anybody with a criminal record are de facto discrimination, the department says — because of the systemic disparities of the American criminal justice system. (1)

Subsequently, there has been pushback to the HUD guidance.

A recent opinion piece in the Los Angeles times highlights some of the challenges that greatly compound the issue.

From an LATimes.com opinion piece (Apr. 10, 16):

HUD's guidance to housing providers is distressingly vague and in some ways arbitrary. What “evidence” will show whether a person with a record is a risk? Can a repeat arsonist only be turned away after a landlord researches studies on recidivism among convicted arsonists? How long does a person with a conviction for marijuana possession need to be out of prison before a landlord must rent to him or her? Is it the same number of years for a murderer? Isn't it a bit odd that HUD is making landlords consider violent criminals on a case-by-case basis — even though in the Fair Housing Act, Congress specifically allowed landlords to turn away people convicted of manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance? (2)

Almeida states: “The challenges and complexities that are being highlighted in various op-ed pieces across the country clearly indicate the immediate need for landlords and property managers to work with third-party tenant screening companies in order to maintain compliance under the terms put forth by HUD.”

While some view the vagaries of policy within the guidance as a challenge, other individuals and groups take issue with the overarching governmental control.

From an opinion piece from SILive.com regarding the HUD guidance (May 01, 16):

Those who have committed crimes, and have paid their debt, have every right to make their way back into society. We commend any landlord who trusts enough in a person to give him a second chance. But that trust must be determined by the landlord. Not government. To force the landlord, given current FHA guidelines, is government overstepping its bounds? (3)

Almeida states: “As the HUD guidance goes into effect it greatly behooves all landlords and property managers to work with a third-party tenant screening company in order to maintain full compliance and avoid any potential litigation. This is a significant and on-going situation that demands attention and focus.”

TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company with highly trained investigators well versed in the legal and lawful use of criminal history reports, and all public record reports, as part of a tenant background check.

Notes:

(1)    npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/04/472878724/denying-housing-over-criminal-record-may-be-discrimination-feds-say
(2)    latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-fair-housing-criminals-20160410-story.html
(3)    silive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/05/rent.html

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