County Landlords Would Be Required to Revise Rental Application Process, Decision Making Under New Law

County landlords would be required to revise rental applications to improve transparency and be limited on what types of arrest and convictions could be considered in housing decisions under the terms of a bill passed April 20 by the County Council.

Bill 49-20, known as the Housing Justice Act, would (quoting from the staff report):

  • Prohibit a landlord from raising a stated rent in certain circumstances
  • Require a rental application to contain certain information about record checks conducted by a housing provider
  • Prohibit certain inquiries regarding criminal histories in rental housing applications
  • Prohibit consideration of certain arrests and convictions in rental housing decisions, and
  • Generally amend the law regarding discrimination in housing and landlord-tenant affairs.

“With the passage of the Housing Justice Act, we are ensuring that residents who have experienced homelessness or were incarcerated for minor offenses are not discriminated against when they apply for permanent housing,” Councilmember Evan Glass (D-At Large), one of the lead sponsors of the bill, said in a press release. “We know that some housing policies were originally designed to restrict socio-economic diversity, and the passage of this legislation is one step to correcting decades and centuries of injustice.”

In addition to the above, landlords would be required to make housing decisions based on market demands, not source of income or other discriminatory factors.

The bill also would “prohibit a landlord from conducting a criminal record check of a prospective tenant until after a conditional offer of housing has been made to the prospective tenant,” the staff report said, known as “ban the box” in employment law.

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According to the release, “Existing fair housing legislation does not compel landlords to list offenses considered in the rental decision, credit history requirements, and rent fees on their lease applications. In addition, landlords are not mandated to explain why a rental application is denied. This lack of transparency can mask discrimination based upon race and ethnicity, source of income, and criminal history resulting from life-sustaining activities undertaken during periods of homelessness.”

Graphic courtesy office of Councilmember Glass

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