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Tenant Screening in DC – New restrictions on housing providers use of criminal records

Effective February 15, 2017, The District of Columbia has enacted the Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act of 2016. The new law makes it more difficult for housing providers to reject applicants with criminal histories, similar to the laws in effect restricting employers from rejecting job applicants under the same circumstances.

Under the Act, housing providers are barred from automatically denying housing to ex-offenders if their convictions are more than seven years old. They are also restricted from inquiring about or considering certain criminal history information in offering housing to applicants. Specifically, housing providers:

(1) Are restricted from inquiring about a housing applicant’s pending criminal accusation or prior conviction until after a conditional offer of housing is made.

(2) May not consider a criminal accusation or criminal conviction if it occurred prior to the last 7 years.

(3)  May only consider specific crimes.

The Office of Human Rights is authorized to adjudicate complaints filed under the Act, establish penalties against property owners or providers, and provide for immunity to certain smaller housing providers.

Housing Provider Takeaway: With potential fines up to $5,000, it is crucial to understand the obligations now in place and make appropriate changes to their tenant screening policies.

Click here to read the Act.

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