Even after someone has served their sentence for a criminal offense and fulfilled any other obligations related to that sentence, they can find that their criminal record still follows them around. It can even prevent them from renting an apartment or a home if the landlord runs a background check.
Members of the New York City Council would like to change that. About 30 of them have signed on to legislation known as the Fair Chance for Housing Act. If it passes and is enacted, it would prohibit landlords from running criminal background checks on potential renters and discriminating against people for their criminal records.
There would be some exceptions. For example, it wouldn’t apply to properties that house just two families. Landlords could still check the New York Sex Offender Registry. People seeking public housing would still be subject to background checks because these are required under federal law.
Advocates and opponents have expressed strong views
One councilperson noted that “housing is a human right and every New Yorker deserves stable housing.” However, not everyone feels that way. One says, “You’re letting someone come into your home and you don’t know whether they’ve been in and out of prison.”
Still, others think there needs to be a compromise. For example, landlords could be allowed to turn down applicants who have been convicted of felonies.
This isn’t the first time that legislation of this type has been proposed. So far, it hasn’t succeeded. If you’re a landlord in New York City, it’s crucial to keep up with the current state of landlord-tenant laws. Violating the law, even unintentionally, can result in costly litigation and fines. If you have questions or are facing a lawsuit or penalties, it’s wise to have experienced legal guidance.