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政府可以限制房东使用犯罪背景信息

美国住房和城市发展部(或 HUD)希望打击房东在住房申请人筛选中使用犯罪背景调查。据报道,根据一套待定的规则,HUD 将更加坚决地对违反公平住房的房东进行举报和惩罚。具体来说,在背景调查方面,房东可能会因为重罪而立即解雇住房申请人或使用逮捕记录作为拒绝申请的手段,这可能会带来很大的麻烦。

有些人担心 HUD 的新规则是社会正义运动的一部分,会限制美国商人的自由。例如,在 Watchdog.org 发表的一篇文章中,德克萨斯公共政策基金会犯罪权利中心的副主任指出,重罪犯“不是受保护的群体”,并认为 HUD 更担心“过去刑事犯罪的污名”而不是公共安全。”

然而,虽然重罪犯不是受保护的阶级,但 HUD 的论点是背景调查和房东因此做出的决定对少数群体——特别是非裔美国人——产生了不成比例的影响。如果这个论点听起来很熟悉,那是因为平等就业机会委员会之前已经就用于就业目的的背景调查做出了规定。

在许多方面,HUD 提议的关于住房背景调查问题的“指导”与 EEOC 当前关于就业背景调查的指导相同。就像 EEOC 一样,HUD 会禁止房东在判断住房申请时考虑逮捕记录。此举是有道理的:逮捕不是刑事犯罪的标志,不应与住房决定产生任何影响。在没有定罪的情况下,逮捕不能被视为对“公共安全”构成威胁的预测。被捕但未被定罪的人可能会被错误地指控并清除不法行为,或者根本没有被指控犯罪。

与 EEOC 一样,HUD 不希望房东放弃任何有刑事定罪的人的申请,甚至是任何有重罪指控的人。相反,该部门表示,房东必须证明他们禁止申请人的政策是“实现实质性、合法、非歧视性利益所必需的”。

换句话说,如果房东想禁止申请人进行刑事定罪,房东必须对申请人可能构成威胁的原因提出有力的论据。例如,被定罪的凶手或强奸犯可能对其他租户或附近社区构成危险。从本质上讲,房东必须在逐个定罪的基础上做出决定,以确定他们是否有“合法的、非歧视性的”理由根据犯罪历史禁止住房申请人。

HUD 的规则尚未最终确定。请继续关注以了解有关住房行业这些背景调查相关发展的更多信息。

Some are worried that HUD's new rules are part of a social justice crusade and limit the freedoms of American business people. In an article published by Watchdog.org, for instance, the deputy director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Right on Crime Center noted that felons are "not a protected class" and argued that HUD was more worried about "the stigma of past criminal offence than public safety."

However, while felons aren't a protected class, HUD's argument is that background checks and the decisions landlords make because of them have a disproportionate impact on minority groups—specifically African-Americans. If this argument sounds familiar, it's because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made them before in regards to background checks used for employment purposes.

In many ways, HUD's proposed "guidance" on the housing background check issue is identical to the EEOC's current guidance on employment background checks. Just like the EEOC, HUD would bar landlords from taking arrest records into account when judging housing applications. This move makes sense: arrests are not a sign of criminal guilt and should not have any bearing on housing decisions. Without a conviction, an arrest cannot be taken as a prediction that a housing applicant is a threat to "public safety." Someone who was arrested but not convicted could have been wrongly accused and cleared of wrongdoing, or never charged with a crime at all.

Also like the EEOC, HUD doesn't want landlords tossing out applications of anyone who has a criminal conviction—or even anyone who has a felony charge. Instead, the department says that landlords must prove their policies for barring applicants are "necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest."

In other words, if a landlord wants to bar an applicant for a criminal conviction, the landlord must have a strong argument for why the applicant might pose a threat. For instance, a convicted murderer or rapist might be dangerous to other tenants or the nearby community. In essence, landlords would have to decide on a conviction-by-conviction basis to determine whether or not they had a "legitimate, nondiscriminatory" reason to bar a housing applicant based on criminal history.

HUD's rules are not yet final. Stay tuned to learn more about these background check-related developments in the housing industry.

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