7 Ways To Stay Out Of Trouble When Checking Criminal History

When you are reviewing your screening policies to avoid any discriminatory effects, especially criminal history, be sure to avoid your gut feelings. The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on tenant screening and the right way to do it especially when checking criminal history.

By Ellen Clark

The National Fair Housing Alliance’s recent publication, Making Every Neighborhood a Place of Opportunity: 2018 Fair Housing Trends Report  is full of useful information about the state of fair housing in our nation, 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act.

Remember to review your screening policies to avoid any appearance of discrimination.

How to use criminal history

One of the things in the National Fair Housing Alliance publications is the highlighting of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) guidance on how to use criminal history if you are a housing provider.

“In 2015, HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing issued a notice that prohibits Public Housing Authorities and owners of federally-assisted housing from applying blanket exclusions of applicants with an arrest record in their housing decision.

“In 2016, HUD’s Office of General Counsel issued guidance on how the Fair Housing Act applies to the use of criminal history by housing providers and, specifically, how the discriminatory effects and disparate treatment methods of proof apply to fair housing cases in situations when a housing provider justifies an adverse housing decision based on someone’s criminal record.

In issuing this important policy guidance, HUD has helped provide housing stability for people with criminal records, a critical step toward the successful reintegration of people with criminal records into society.”

Here are a few practical tips to ensure your screening policies are in line with HUD guidance

7 Ways To Stay Out Of Trouble When Checking Criminal History

Keep these tips in mind at all times.

Everyone involved in the leasing process should be trained in screening policies. Everyone should consistently follow these policies, rather than make decisions based on assumptions or gut feelings.

    1. Do not deny an application based solely on an arrest record. An arrest is not the same as a conviction.
    2. Do not automatically exclude applicants just because they have a criminal history.
    3. Consider criminal history only after the applicant’s other qualifications are verified. If you do need to consider criminal history, conduct an individualized assessment that looks at several factors.
    4. The nature and severity of the crime.
    5. The time since the arrest or conviction.
    6. The applicant’s recent rental history.
    7. The applicant’s rehabilitation efforts.
  1. When consistently applied, policies that follow these guidelines are less likely to have a discriminatory effect.  Take time to review your applicant screening policies and procedures, particularly those relating to background checks, with your supervisor and legal counsel today.

Read Ellen’s full blog post here.


Recent Grace Hill training tips you may have missed:

Have You Reviewed Your Criminal Background Checks Policy Lately?

Landlords Sue Seattle Over Criminal Background Check Restrictions

Related story: 7 Issues And Answers About Renting To Felons

About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.

7 Ways To Stay Out Of Trouble When Checking Criminal History

Photo credit thecrimsonribbon via istockphoto.com


Sign Up For Our Newsletter And Get Apartment News And Helpful, Useful Content Each Week.

* indicates required