尽管近年来一些市政当局已采取措施限制房东审查潜在租户的方式， 但在大多数有限制的地方， 租户背景调查仍然是合法的。例如， 在波特兰，如果定罪发生在七年前，房东不能以重罪定罪作为拒绝租户申请的理由；如果轻罪发生在过去三年内，那么这些轻罪才是值得考虑的公平游戏。波特兰在这方面的规定比该国许多其他地区更为宽松，但正在兴起的运动正在推动在全国范围内制定更宽松的租户筛选政策，并消除流程中的歧视和偏见。
在弗吉尼亚州，一家管理 1,700 套公寓的住房管理公司 最近同意取消对租户筛选的零容忍政策。过去，如果租户的背景调查显示有犯罪记录，公司会自动取消考虑任何潜在租户的资格。
住房管理公司没有考虑租户定罪的年龄、严重程度或相关性；它保持一揽子政策，并拒绝向任何有犯罪背景的人提供出租机会。该政策引发了弗吉尼亚州住房机会平等组织 (HOME) 的诉讼，该组织旨在结束住房歧视。HOME 认为，该政策具有歧视性，因为“由于数十年来对黑人和拉丁裔社区的大规模监禁和过度监管”，它对少数族裔人口产生了不成比例的影响。
诉讼中的被告，一家名为 Kay Management 的租赁公司，在法官裁定该政策违反了弗吉尼亚公平住房法和公平住房法 (FHA)后，同意改变其政策 。虽然这些法律不包括波特兰或西雅图等城市的条例对租户背景调查的一些具体限制 ，但它们对于房东来说仍然至关重要。
本案中的问题不在于 Kay Management 正在进行背景调查，甚至不在于它在租赁决策中使用犯罪历史信息。相反，该公司正在使用过于广泛的租户筛选政策，这对受保护的少数群体成员产生了不成比例的影响。展望未来，Kay Management 将重点考虑最近的刑事定罪，并且仅当它们与暴力、性犯罪和重大毒品犯罪等严重犯罪有关时。
Kay Management 的故事突出了租户筛选中的偏见以及为什么房东需要意识到这一点。任何可能对少数族裔产生负面影响的租赁做法——即使这种做法不是故意歧视——都可能违反法律并给房东带来代价高昂的法律问题。例如， 根据 FHA，房东不得询问有关种族、民族、邻居偏好、宗教、性别、性取向、残疾或家庭状况的任何问题。甚至在与租户面谈时提出的即兴问题（例如“你来自哪里，最初是？”、“你是单身吗？”或“你的孩子吵闹吗？”）也可能背叛偏见并违反 FHA 法律。
不采取措施纠正这些偏见的房东面临一系列法律后果和成本的风险。在您开始出租房产之前，请花时间了解相关法律，从 FHA 到您所在州或市的具体法律法规。与律师坐下来讨论您的法律义务并创建一个不会陷入偏见的租户筛选模型可能是值得的。
在 GOOHO.CN，我们可以帮助您构建有效、合规的租户背景调查方法。 立即联系我们 以了解更多信息。
tenant background checks are still legal in most places with restrictions. For instance, in Portland, a landlord cannot use a felony conviction as a reason to deny a tenant application if the conviction occurred more than seven years ago; misdemeanors are only fair game for consideration if they happened within the past three years. Portland’s rules on the matter are more liberal than in many other parts of the country, but a rising movement is pushing for the creation of more lenient tenant screening policies across the country and the elimination of discrimination and bias from the process.
In Virginia, a housing management company that manages 1,700 apartments recently agreed to scrap a zero-tolerance policy for tenant screening. In the past, the company had automatically disqualified any prospective tenant from consideration if their tenant background checks showed a criminal history.
The housing management company was not considering the age, severity, or relevance of tenant convictions; it maintained a blanket policy and refused rental opportunities to anyone with a criminal background. That policy prompted a lawsuit from Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME), an organization aimed at ending discrimination in housing. HOME argued that the policy was discriminatory because it had a disproportionate impact on minority populations “due to decades of mass incarceration and over-policing of Black and Latinx communities.”
The defendant in the lawsuit, a rental company called Kay Management, agreed to change its policy after a judge ruled that the policy violated both the Virginia Fair Housing Law and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). While these laws do not include some of the specific limitations on tenant background checks that ordinances in cities such as Portland or Seattle do, they are still critical for landlords to understand.
The problem in this case was not that Kay Management was running background checks or even that it was using criminal history information in its rental decisions. Rather, the company was using an overly broad tenant screening policy that had a disproportionate impact on members of protected minority classes. Going forward, Kay Management will be focusing on considering more recent criminal convictions, and only if they relate to serious crimes such as violence, sex offenses, and major drug offenses.
The story of Kay Management puts a spotlight on bias in tenant screening and why landlords need to be aware of it. Any rental practice that may have a negative impact on minority classes—even if that practice is not intentionally discriminatory—can violate the law and lead to costly legal problems for landlords. For instance, under the FHA, landlords are not allowed to ask any questions about race, ethnicity, neighbor preferences, religion, gender, sexuality, disability, or familial status. Even offhand questions asked during an interview with a tenant (such as “Where are you from, originally?”, “Are you single?”, or “Are your kids loud?”) can betray bias and violate FHA laws.
Being a landlord can be a lucrative full-time job or source of extra, mostly passive, income. In either situation, it is vital to understand how class, race, ethnicity, economic status, and other factors can create implicit biases in tenant screening and selection.
Landlords who do not take steps to correct these biases are at risk for a range of legal ramifications and costs. Before you start renting out a property, take time to learn about relevant laws, from the FHA to the specific legal statutes that are on the books in your state or municipality. It may be worth a sit-down with a lawyer to talk through your legal obligations and create a tenant screening model that does not tip into bias territory.
At backgroundchecks.com, we can help you to structure an effective, compliant approach for tenant background checks. Contact us today to learn more.