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Criminal Conviction Screening Policies: Best Practices to Avoid Disparate Impact Liability

 

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin. It’s origin can be traced all the way back to 1966.

A tremendous expansion of the law was announced on April 4, 2016 when HUD’s Office of General Counsel issued new guidance with warnings about the use of criminal history when considering a new rental applicant.   Specifically, the new guidance addresses the chance of discrimination by a landlord in which a landlord justifies an adverse housing action – such as a refusal to rent or renew a lease – based on an individual’s criminal history

This announcement was an enormous surprise and initially sent waves of fear throughout the rental community.  Lawyers quickly developed quick safe harbor advice for landlords everywhere. 

A month later a sixteen page White Paper was issued by the National Multifamily Housing Council.  This document titled “Criminal Conviction Screening Policies: Best Practices to Avoid Disparate Impact Liability,” was written by Mike Skojec, Partner at Ballard Spahr, LLP. The white paper reviews the HUD guidance, provides the historical and legal context and recommends best practices for apartment owners and operators.

This is required reading by landlords everywhere.  Click Here to view the White Paper

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