Tenants Face Discrimination in Renting; Cities Fight Back

Tenants face discrimination due to criminal pasts and/or Section 8 housing vouchers.  Seattle and Berkeley are two example cities fighting back against growing discrimination in the housing industry.  The Fair Chance Housing bill sponsored by Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle would prohibit landlords in the applicant screening process to look at conviction records that are over 2 years old.
Discrimination is a challenge faced by people with recent criminal pasts as well as those that require Section 8 housing.  Two cities, Berkeley and Seattle, are looking to enact legislation to alleviate discrimination in housing and these actions point to an urgent need for landlords to work with well-qualified third-party tenant screening agencies in order to remain compliant with existing and potential change in law.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is working with a task force to create a bill to prohibit landlords from automatically rejecting individuals with criminal histories.

From SeattleWeekly.com (Aug. 03, 17):

Sponsored by Mayor Ed Murray and the product of one of his ubiquitous task forces, the Fair Chance Housing bill would prohibit landlords from automatically rejecting anyone with a criminal record in advertisements. Also, when screening applications, landlords could only look at convictions on an applicant’s record in the past two years. The bill follows the trajectory set by a 2013 ordinance which similarly prohibits discrimination against former prisoners applying for employment.  seattleweekly.com/news/should-landlords-be-allowed-to-discriminate-against-former-prisoners/

The Seattle bill has lofty goals but should remind landlords and property managers that it is always a best practice to work with a third-party tenant screening agency to maintain compliance with existing and potential changes in law.

Changes in employment screening law has hit the country hard over the past several years with ban-the-box legislation and the enforcement of the EEOC and these kinds of changes are now hitting tenant screening.

Berkeley is attempting to reduce discrimination in housing regarding Section Eight renters.

From the Mercury News (mercurynews.com; Aug 03, 17):

…the city council took preliminary action to prohibit landlords and rental agents from refusing to rent to someone based on their source of income. Elected officials and tenant rights advocates said their goal was to help more people on a federal subsidy program for low income and disabled people to find housing. If the ordinance is approved on a final vote Sept. 12th, Berkeley would become the first East Bay city to pass such a law.  mercurynews.com/2017/07/31/berkeley-makes-move-to-ban-discrimination-against-low-income-renters/

Creating a fully-comprehensive tenant background check protocol is a critical challenge to landlords, but actions in Seattle and Berkeley point to the rapid change in law.

Changes in law could also carry potential financial penalty.

From the Mercury News (mercurynews.com; Aug 03, 17):

Under the law, landlords could not refuse to rent to a person solely because they are on housing assistance or give preference to someone whose entire income is earned from a job as opposed to receiving a government subsidy. Violating the ordinance carries a potential fine of up to $1,000 and or jail time for up to six months. A tenant is also entitled to receive up to $400 in damages in addition to fees charged by attorneys.  Ibid…

Working with a professional third-party tenant screening agency is key to a landlord’s success in staying compliant with existing law and in staying ahead of potential change in law, as well as avoiding the risk of penalty.

To learn more about tenant discrimination and what cities like Seattle and Berkeley are doing about it read recent TenantScreeningUSA.com press release: http://tenantscreeningusa.com/tenant-screening-news/tenants-face-discrimination-in-renting-cities-fight-back-a-continuing-evolution-in-tenant-screening-states-tenantscreeningusa-com/

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