Is Running Criminal Background Checks a Good Idea?

For many years running criminal background checks on prospective tenants was considered to be somewhat impractical. This was because the landlord had to visit the county records office for each county the area served. Here they could search for criminal records on the individual, but this could take up many hours the average landlord didn’t have to waste, let alone the money.

Fast Forward to Today

The advent of the internet has changed all of this and made running criminal background checks as easy as logging in and entering the appropriate information. This has made it far easier for landlords to run criminal background checks and many are taking advantage of this.

Many of those who choose to do so, say that they are doing so in order to protect the rest of their tenants as well as their property from someone who has a previous criminal record. At the same time, there are those who say that this may be a violation of tenant’s rights. In April of 2016, the HUD made comments to the effect that running indiscriminate criminal background checks may, in fact, be a violation of certain housing discrimination laws.

Problems with Running Criminal Background Checks

There are a number of problems with landlords being able to run criminal background checks. The most common of these is that not all convictions have anything to do with a person’s ability to become a safe and responsible tenant. A perfect example of this might be someone who was convicted of shoplifting five years ago. This type of crime would have little to no bearing on the safety of other tenants.

Fair-housing lawyers state that landlords should not be able to use a criminal background check as a reason to automatically reject a potential tenant’s application. Instead, they say landlords should be required to assess the severity of any potential tenant’s crimes, how long ago they occurred, and whether or not the crimes committed are relevant to their ability to be a good tenant.

Their Debt Has Been Paid

Those who work as tenant advocates feel that once a person has served their time and paid their debt to society should not be denied access to housing. The question is, why should a person who has paid their debt and been released back into society not be able to find housing. A question that was taken to U.S. District Court in 2014 when the Fortune Society took civil action against SandCastle Apartments located in Queens, NY. It appeared the many applicants were being turned away due to past criminal records.

To date, many landlords continue to run criminal background checks on all tenants and rejected many due to past criminal records. You may want to make sure you have proper checks and balances in place in order to avoid the possibility of being taken to court in civil suits for discrimination.