Can declining criminals in your Chicagoland apartments make you a criminal?
Screening potential tenants is one of the most important jobs of a landlord and property manager. If you let someone in who doesn’t pay, not only are you losing income for the months they don’t pay, but also the cost to evict a tenant in Chicago can often be close to a full year of rental income! The one thing more expensive than a non-paying tenant is a lawsuit for not following Fair Housing laws when declining or accepting a tenant. The hottest topic in Fair Housing right now is having a blanket statement of not accepting those with a criminal past. One attorney in Florida has already taken 48 Property management companies and private landlords to court over the Fair Housing issues caused by not accepting a convicted criminal into their apartment.
"How is this a Fair Housing issue?" you ask. HUD started to dig into the stats of those arrested and convicted of crimes and saw a disproportionate amount of arrests were of minorities, especially those in the African American and Hispanic communities. This means by discriminating against all criminals, in HUD’s and Cook County’s eyes, you are discriminating against Hispanic and African Americans.
"Does this mean I can’t deny someone because of any criminal past?"
You must be able to prove the past crime they committed shows that they may be a danger to other tenants and/or your property, or they may not pay rent. This means if they got caught smoking a blunt when they were 16, and they are now 45, with no other record, you shouldn’t deny them based on the criminal past. However, if they are convicted of a sex offense, and you have a 3-flat, it may be okay to deny them based on the crime.
"How do I protect myself?"
The easiest answer is to hire a great property management company that handles the leasing and has policies already in place. Besides that, here are a few more tips to make sure you stay compliant
1. Make sure to have a policy written about acceptance criteria and stick to it. If you turn down someone for having bad credit at a 640 and then later accept a 639, you could be at risk of a lawsuit.
2. Look at credit and income before their background check. If you deny them on credit or income, their background is irrelevant. Again, always stick to your policies! Have a hard line and take no exceptions to it.
3. Arrests mean nothing until proven guilty! Never deny someone because they were arrested. Only if they were convicted should it even be considered. And again, you must be able to prove they are a threat to not pay, harm others, or the property based off of the criminal background.
Thanks as always for reading, as always - do not take anything on this blog as financial or legal advice! Always talk to an attorney or wealth advisor before making any decisions based on this blog. If you are looking to have your property in Chicago professionally managed, give Kale Realty a call at 773-547-1546
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