It has come to our attention that law firm(s) have recently filed a number of lawsuits against apartment communities throughout the state claiming discrimination based on disparate impact.
These lawsuits are alleging that an individual who is a convicted felon called an apartment community to inquire about renting. During the call, he disclosed his felony conviction background and, he alleges, the apartment community staff stated over the phone that his criminal background would result in an automatic denial of the application.
We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued guidance
in 2016 regarding how criminal screening policies could be in violation of the Fair Housing Act, under what is known as disparate impact.
A disparate impact results from policies that have a discriminatory effect, even if the discrimination is unintended. According to HUD, certain policies, such as blanket policies against any individual with a criminal background, may negatively impact certain races and therefore have a disparate impact. In light of the recent lawsuit activity in Florida, it is critical for FAA members to review their current policies related to criminal screening and ensure all staff members who answer the phone are properly trained.
What steps can you take to avoid liability?
- Review the HUD guidance that was issued in April 2016.
- Read NAA's Criminal Conviction Screening Policies: Best Practices to Avoid Disparate Impact Liability
- Review the additional NAA resources related to this topic.
- Assess your criminal screening policy to determine if any changes should be made to avoid disparate-impact liability.
- Contact your attorney or in-house legal counsel for guidance and advice.