You Make the Call: Using Criminal Records in the Tenant Screening Process

Tenant screening is a critical part of the leasing process. Real Property Management’s thorough screening of prospective renters assists in finding quality tenants who will not only pay their rent on time but also respect the property and the neighbors.

Question: Can criminal records be used in the screening process?

Answer: Yes, but tread lightly.

Effectively screening prospective tenants helps reduce the chance of renting to those who may not be trustworthy renters. Real Property Management qualifies tenants during the tenant screening process using screening which often includes rental history, employment verification, credit history, and yes, criminal history.

Although it is acceptable to screen tenants for criminal history, an arrest alone should not be grounds for denial of housing. Denying a tenant housing because of a previous criminal charge for which they were not convicted could be a violation of fair housing laws. A criminal charge is not a determination of fault under the law and may be reported to a Civil Rights Office.

Also, it is discrimination for a landlord to only run criminal background checks on protected class groups which include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap and familial status. Discrimination against someone in a protected class is not only morally wrong – it is illegal.

Before declining a rental application because of the person’s criminal record, considerations are made for how long ago the crime occurred and whether the crime has any relevance towards the tenant’s ability to be a good renter.

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