The following editorial appeared in the Investors Business Daily on 4/11/16….it’s worth reading & sharing.
HUD Threatens To Sue Landlords Who Screen Tenants For Felonies
Crime: The Obama administration has just made it easier for felons to move in next door. Landlords who don’t want tenants who are going to mug their neighbors or deal drugs will now be treated as racists and potentially sued.
Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued new guidelines to landlords, warning that bans against renters with criminal convictions violate the Fair Housing Act because they disproportionately affect minorities.
In effect, the Obama regime is now outlawing criminal background checks for apartment rentals, even though such screening is critical for the protection and security of tenants and property, and serves a legitimate business need.
In a newly released 10-page missive, HUD warns landlords they can be held liable for discrimination if they deny housing over criminal records.
“HUD will use the full force of the law to protect the fair housing rights of folks who’ve been arrested or who’re returning to their communities after serving time in jail or prison,” HUD Secretary Julian Castro warned.
By “full force,” he means the “disparate impact” theory of civil-rights enforcement, which HUD claims is written into the Fair Housing Act even though the phrase appears nowhere in the statute.
Disparate impact holds businesses liable for colorblind policies and practices that may have adverse outcomes for minorities — in this case, screening all apartment applicants for criminal histories. It doesn’t matter if there is zero intent to discriminate in carrying out such polices. The policies will be condemned as racist regardless.
“The ‘disparate impact’ standard is one of the most powerful tools we have to stamp out discrimination,” Castro said. “And I want you to know that HUD will not be shy about using it.”
Even if applied evenly and neutrally across all races, HUD claims that screening policies have a discriminatory disparate impact on African-Americans who “are arrested at a rate more than double their proportion of the general population.” In other words, it asserts, landlords could be breaking the law when they refuse to rent to black ex-cons with long rap sheets — even if they have no intention of discriminating — because such a policy would likely have a disproportionate impact on them.
So now landlords, real estate agents and property managers will think twice before turning away drug dealers and thieves, even rapists, who are members of this “protected class” — even though barring high-risk tenants serves a legitimate, nondiscriminatory purpose.
This puts landlords in a terrible legal bind.
To protect themselves from federal action, they would be wise to avoid even inquiring about the criminal records of prospective tenants. But if they fail to adequately screen them and rent to one who robs or hurts a neighbor, they could be sued by the victim for negligence.
No doubt many will see no option but to raise rents to indirectly exclude criminals from their rentals, which will just end up hurting everybody who rents housing — including innocent, law-abiding tenants.
Obama’s new rule makes it easier for HUD to resettle urban minorities into affordable housing in the suburbs, as part of a controversial regulation it finalized last year — Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing — which threatens to cut off funding to local municipalities that refuse to lift zoning restrictions on low-income housing.
The federal mandate — whose goal is racially balancing the nation, ZIP code by ZIP code — also threatens to import violent crime into the suburbs, while lowering property values and negatively impacting local schools.
As kitchen table issues go, these are major developments. Disappointingly, none of the presidential candidates are talking about them.