Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week
Review Your Screening Policies Regularly
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.
One of the things the report highlights is HUD’s guidance on the use of criminal history by housing providers:
“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:
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.
- Do not deny an application based solely on an arrest record. An arrest is not the same as a conviction.
- Do not automatically exclude applicants just because they have a criminal history.
- 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 things like:
- The nature and severity of the crime
- The time since the arrest or conviction
- The applicant’s recent rental history
- The applicant’s rehabilitation efforts
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.