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HUD Issues Guidance on Criminal History and Fair Housing

While landlords use tenant screening processes to find responsible renters, they need to make sure biases don't stop them from providing homes to needy people. It's for this reason the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development recently released guidelines for staying in compliance with the Fair Housing Act when it comes time to use criminal histories in background investigations.

The United States has the largest prison population in the world, according to HUD. When people want to start a new life after incarceration, landlords that won't even consider ex-convicts create a significant barrier. It's not just individuals who have served jail time that face problems. In 2015, The Center for American Progress discovered almost half of U.S. children have a parent with a criminal record and HUD wants landlords to consider the needs of families before disqualifying housing applicants.

JD Supra Business Advisor explained landlords can perform criminal background checks during the screening process and they can use the information to make their final decisions. Housing managers just have to be able to justify every piece of data that contributed to an applicant's disqualification. Regulators can investigate how the information was important for the particular case and see if the decision corresponds to a trend of bias. HUD especially wants to prevent criminal background checks from serving as a smokescreen for racial discrimination.

Ex-convicts already face obstacles in the job market and regulations based on the "Ban the Box" movement are designed to give them a fair shot at employment. The Public News Service said the Fair Housing Act is critical to breaking the cycle that leads to repeat criminal problems.

Landlords need to carefully evaluate each application based on every piece of relevant information. This is why it's helpful to partner with a professional background investigation service that can consolidate and manage applicant data while staying in compliance with changing regulations and guidelines.

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