It has come to our attention that single-family rental property owners and managers are being hit with lawsuits accusing them of violating the federal Fair Housing Act because of blanket criminal screening policies. So far in 2019, 48 lawsuits have been filed against owners and managers of single-family rental properties in Florida.
At this time, we do not have any evidence that apartment communities are being targeted by this lawsuit activity but that does not mean that the apartment industry will not become a target in the future. In an effort to ensure FAA members are well informed, 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.
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.