LA to consider ban for criminal checks on housing applications

“Fair chance” ordinance could fine landlords for discrimination based on a tenant’s record

LA to Consider Ban for Criminal Checks on Housing Applicants

The Los Angeles City Council will consider whether to bar landlords from snooping into potential renters’ criminal past and using their records to deny them housing.

The council voted 11-0 to reactivate a motion seeking to establish a “fair chance” housing ordinance that would prohibit property owners from asking about an applicant’s criminal history, then acting on it, Fox11 Los Angeles and City News Service reported.

Council President Paul Krekorian and Councilman Curren Price recused themselves, while Councilwomen Katy Yaroslavsky and Monica Rodriguez were absent.

The motion will head to the council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee for consideration.

The proposed ordinance would “prohibit landlords from, at any time or by any means, whether direct or indirect, inquire about an applicant’s criminal history or requiring an applicant to disclose criminal history” when an applicant is applying for an apartment or other type of housing.

The proposed city law would also prevent landlords from using such information to deny an applicant. Prospective renters would have a “private right of action,” with a landlord facing fines for discriminating  based on a tenant’s record.

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Such cities as Oakland and Berkeley have already enacted similar housing laws. The ordinances have detailed exceptions for when the law shouldn’t apply — such as when a person applies to rent owner-occupied units or shared living arrangements.

The fair chance motion was originally introduced by Councilmembers Nithya Raman, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mike Bonin. It’s not clear why it stalled.

They said that Angelenos with past criminal histories often face insurmountable barriers to housing and are routinely screened out when applying to rent housing because of criminal background checks.

“We must follow the lead of cities like Oakland, Berkeley and Seattle and prohibit the use of criminal background checks when evaluating rental applications for housing,” the motion states.

— Dana Bartholomew

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