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Is it fair to ban criminal background checks by landlords?

Is it fair to ban criminal background checks by landlords?

On Behalf of | Dec 20, 2022 | landlord-tenant disputes |

The “Fair Chance for Housing Act” is slowly moving forward through the New York City Council’s review, despite fierce opposition from landlords – and maybe some tenants.

The proposed law had a lot of support from council members and the city’s mayor, but not everybody is a fan. If it passes, it would prohibit landlords from running criminal background checks on any prospective tenant.

What are the pros and cons of this bill?

Those who support the bill say that it’s a necessary move to eliminate problems that put black and brown people at a disadvantage. They have a disproportionate number of criminal violations, which many advocates contend is a factor of systemic racism.

In essence, people of color are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than white people – and a minor conviction from a decade ago could be used as a pretext to deny someone a rental. One supporter noted that 11% of the population of New York has a criminal conviction on their record, saying, “There is no evidence that shows a criminal conviction determines whether someone will pay their rent, someone will be a good neighbor, and whether a community will be safe.”

Opponents, however, say that landlords and other tenants could suffer if the Act does pass. As one council member (who does not support the bill’s passage) said, “We can actually have a murderer and someone in current criminal proceedings moving in next door and nobody will know about it.”

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers – but the bill looks like it is likely to pass, and landlords need to brace for the changes. Landlords and tenants can have a complicated relationship – but it’s often easier to navigate complex situations when you have experienced legal guidance on your side.