Obama Warns Refusing to Rent b/c of Criminal History Might be Discrimination

The Obama administration released a warning that failure to rent to those with a criminal history might be race discrimination. This is because of the disproportionate number of African Americans with felony convictions. Read the full article HERE.

Don’t just make a face and scoff at this. The reasoning is sound. It doesn’t mean you will have to rent to all criminals. It DOES mean you should start thinking about rental policies that take into account the nature of a crime,  and the length of time since the conviction.

On a related topic, those with emotional or mental disabilities, or former drug or alcohol addiction, might have poor credit scores and even criminal histories.  Such people are in a protected class, as persons with disabilities.  If they ask for a reasonable accommodation and a variance of your rules related to background checks, you need to take it seriously. If they assert the adverse information was due to a disability, and they can demonstrate the problem will not recur, you will probably have to rent to them.

Improved circumstances might be because they are no longer addicted. Or, they have assistance to make sure bills are paid on time. Or, bills were not paid in the past because of a disability and no job, but now they receive regularly monthly disability checks.  You do not have to inquire into any of this. It is the responsibility of the prospective tenant to request an accommodation, and provide any supporting evidence.