The bill hasn’t passed yet, but Int 2047-2020 would “prohibit housing discrimination in rentals, sales, leases, subleases, or occupancy agreements in New York City on the basis of arrest record or criminal history. Landlords, owners, agents, employees, and real estate brokers would be prohibited from obtaining criminal record information at any stage in the process.”
This would not prohibit landlords from evicting tenants for violating the law on their premises. It only keeps them from accessing past rental history. Landlords would also still be able to inquire into the New York sex offender registry but would have to provide the tenant with written notice about the inquiry and may only withdraw the application within a reasonable period of time.
Landlord groups, of course, are protesting the bill.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has thrown his support behind the bill, and it’s sponsored by Council member Stephen Levin.
HUD rentals and Section 8 rentals are already governed by federal guidelines prohibiting landlords from denying housing based on arrest records, making blanket bans against anyone with a criminal history, or conducting background checks inconsistently based on stereotypes. HUD landlords must also consider individuals on a case-by-case basis and evaluate the nature and severity of the crime, then consider the length of time that has passed since that crime was committed, and make a determination based on facts and evidence rather than a perceived threat.
HUD denials based on a determination that recent criminal history makes someone a risk to other tenants and neighbors must provide evidence proving that the housing provider has a substantial, legitimate, and nondiscriminatory interest supporting the denial, and show that the policy accurately distinguishes between criminal conduct carrying a demonstrable risk to resident safety and property and conduct that does not.
In addition, under the Federal Fair Housing Act and State and City Human Rights Laws, landlords in New York who own buildings containing four or more apartments may not refuse to rent to all people with criminal convictions. Past substance abuse is also considered a disability under state and federal law, which means a person who deals with past substance abuse enjoys protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Despite existing protections, research shows that a conviction record reduces the probability by more than 50% that a New York City landlord will even show an apartment to a tenant.
This blog will continue to watch the progress of the bill and will report on it if it passes.
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