Last week, you were introduced to the new guidance suggestions as put forth by the Development of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regarding the utilization of criminal background checks in the tenant approval process. You learned that, in some instances, using these checks could violate the laws that govern fair housing.
You were introduced to the fact that the guidance is not consider to be standard law, but, it is the method that would be used by HUD to analyze any and all complaints pertaining to the denial of housing based on information contained in a criminal background check.
At the end of our first installment, we explained that there are many property management considerations that must be made when you elect to use background checks as a basis for approving housing to a tenant.
This week, we will start by expounding on this aspect of the new HUD guidance.
The Considerations That Property Management Professionals Must Make
The following outlines the considerations that you must make as a property management professional that uses background checks as part of your screening process for tenants:
- First, you should ensure that you do not use arrest records as grounds for excluding potential tenants. If the applicant has a previous arrest record, it does not mean that it led to a conviction. If it does not lead to a conviction, it indicates that the applicant did not engage in activities considered to be illegal.
- Secondly, you should avoid using prior convictions to deny housing. While a prior conviction does substantiate the fact that an applicant probably engaged in illegal activities and/or criminal conduct, the new HUD guidelines state that this could prove to be a burden in establishing that the conviction interferes with the property management professional’s business objective.
- Finally, if you elect to use information from criminal background checks to deny housing, it must be established that the criminal activity highlighted in the check establishes that the tenant could prove to be a risk to the property and/or the neighboring community in terms of safety.
In order to properly use criminal background checks in order to determine if an applicant should be approved and/or denied the opportunity to live in your housing, the following must be determined:
- The nature of the convictions on the criminal background check.
- At what point in history that the criminal activity occurred.
- An assessment must be conducted on the individual even if derogatory information is found in a criminal background check.
The new guidance as set forth and described by the Department of Housing and Urban Development is designed to protect applicants from discrimination when seeking suitable housing for themselves and their families. In addition to this, it is designed to protect you – as a property management professional.
While it is true that you may still proceed in your applicant screening process in the way that you desire as the guidance is not law, it is also important that you are very careful in doing so.