Landlords have many responsibilities to their renters, such as keeping the property safe from dangerous conditions. This means, among other things, keeping handrails stable, repairing broken appliances and fixing leaky roofs. They also have a responsibility to take reasonable measures to keep their tenants safe from criminal activity. This is particularly important in apartment complexes where many different people live in close proximity to each other. Therefore, landlord application screening is already common in these apartment complexes.
One step landlords can take to protect apartment tenants is to do a national criminal record search on all housing applicants. Federal law prevents rental discrimination against anyone based on their age, race, disability, sex, color, religion or national origin. But, people with a criminal record are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
Megan’s Law and sexual offenders
When an apartment complex includes children as residents, it is important to protect them from sexual offenders. All states have some form of what is called Megan’s Law which requires sexual offenders to register with the state. The state then keeps a list of all sexual offenders that are released. Laws vary as to how this information is used. In some states, anyone can check the registry to see if an offender lives near them. Other states restrict who has access to the information and how the information is used.
A criminal background search performed by a reputable company, as part of a landlord application screening process, will discover whether or not an applicant has a sex offender registry record. If so, a landlord can review the criminal record and the circumstances surrounding the criminal offense and make an informed decision as to whether or not to approve the application.
There is a fine line landlords must walk in refusing to rent to a registered sex offender. In some states, California for example, landlords are prohibited from denying a rental application based solely on the fact that the prospective tenant’s name is found on the state’s sexual offender list. But, they can refuse to rent to people based of their criminal record in general. Before approving any rental application, landlord application screening should include a criminal background search.
Disclaimer: The information presented is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.