HR Minute

Housing and Criminal Background Checks

HUD has issued guidance indicating it will review of the use of criminal background checks in determining qualifications for residents in housing. HUD is following the lead of the EEOC concerning criminal convictions and employment. Under the guidance, refusing to rent to someone on the basis that he or she has a prior conviction may be illegal discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

In light of HUD’s new position, you may want to consider these guidelines:

  1. Do not check for arrest records.
  2. You may conduct background investigations into criminal convictions, but you may not have a blanket disqualification for those who have been convicted of crimes.
  3. You should conduct background checks later in the application process, after financial and other qualifications are verified. By delaying the criminal background check, you eliminate the possibility that an otherwise unqualified applicant could claim he was disqualified because of past criminal activity.
  4. If you discover that a qualified applicant has a criminal conviction, you should determine if the conviction is relevant to the safety and security of the community. Factors include a) the type of conviction; b) underlying conduct; c) length of time between the conviction and the application; d) rehabilitation; e) conduct since the conviction; and f) other factors that demonstrate the applicant is qualified or not qualified to become a resident.
  5. Prior to disqualifying a candidate because of a criminal conviction, you should prepare an explanation of the reasons the candidate is unqualified.

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