A California county has become the first in the nation to pass a law banning landlords from conducting criminal background checks on applicants, a significant move meant to curb housing discrimination against formerly incarcerated people.
The Alameda county board of supervisors in the San Francisco Bay Area voted Tuesday to adopt a Fair Chance housing ordinance, which would prohibit landlords in private and public housing from using criminal records when considering prospective tenants. While a few cities have passed similar measures, and at least two counties have adopted partial restrictions, Alameda is the first county in the US to broadly prohibit this practice, advocates say.
The Fair Chance law – passed with four yes votes and a fifth supervisor abstaining – also bans landlords from advertising that people with criminal histories shouldn’t apply, and it establishes that an individual with a criminal record can’t be banned from moving in with a family member. The law, which will require a second vote to be formally adopted, applies only to the unincorporated parts of the county**,** which include San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Sunol, Fairview and Ashland; the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, which are part of Alameda county, previously passedmunicipal laws banning criminal background checks for housing.
The initiative is part of a growing movement in California and across the country to undo the harsh treatment of people with criminal records, with tens of millions of people in the US denied access to jobs, housing, benefits, education and other basic rights due to old convictions. In California, an estimated 8 million people have criminal records, roughly one in five residents. More than 5,000 people are on probation or parole in Alameda county.
Yes, but how you gonna find out they even have a criminal record if you can’t run a background check? Other than “This shady looking guy walks into the office today and …”
This is just another way to erode quality of life for “regular people.” Rich people or the "upscale demographic"who live in upscale apartment complexes will, I am certain, be able to get around this. It’s the mid-level working and middle-middle class complexes who will be forced to rent to these people thus ruining things for the non-criminal element that lives there. And where will they go? Can’t go upscale. Cost too much. Maybe buying is not feasible or desirable at that point. But the Bowery Boys and the Dead End Kids now have Government Protection.
Why even keep criminal records in the first place if they can’t be used for much?
Large landlords will simply use “rental history” instead. You need to provide verifiable rental history for say 5 years before they will rent to you. Kids just out of college will have to rent dumpy places for the first 5 years to get a history. And convicted criminals will have gaps of months or years and will always have to rent in dumpy places. If the criminal can remain clean, or at least uncaught, for 5 years, they rejoin rental society.
They could also do an end run around the law, like is tried with so many other things. For example require a certain level of renters insurance to be acquired. And then the insurance company prices the policy, and the insurance company is permitted to check criminal (and other) records, so they simply price most criminals out.
The “scarlet letter” is a Shiny-land tradition. Make people pay for their mistake, forever. Many states have been doing that with sex offenders. Boink your underage g/f, and pay for the rest of your life. Why not do that to everyone? Make it nearly impossible for them to find a place to live. Make it nearly impossible for them to find a decent job. Carry on with the puritanical punishment culture! It’s a Shiny-land “traditional family value”.
I hired a lot of people that were on parole or ex-cons. At one time I had so many parolees working for me that the parole officer stopped at the plant to do the weekly check-ins. That worked out great.
Most of the ones I hired did time for theft and drug dealing, though I did hire one that had served 25 years for attempted murder of a judge and his wife. The crimes committed I would not hire was rape and child abuse. There was a liability for the company if the rapist became interested in another woman employee and committed the crime again. The risk just wasn’t worth it.
When I was younger, I went to rent an apartment with my GF who is my wife now and the lady wouldn’t rent the apartment because we weren’t married. I just laughed at her and moved on. Little old lady and she had her beliefs. There are a lot of places that will rent to ex inmates.
If you own a house in Alameda, then the government can tell you that you can not use criminal records to deny housing in Alameda County. This is true in many other places in California and the rest of the country. Denying housing to people with criminal records is not a valid basis for denial of housing.
Great way to reduce availability of rentals, or cause rents to be jacked up to reflect the increased risk of renting out a property, leading to increased homelessness, not reduced… If I were faced with this as a landlord, I would sell the place and move on.
An alternative is to turn it all over to a management company, let them deal with it for whatever the contract allows, keep it all out at arms length… In the end, maybe easier to sell, when the time comes…
I don’t know the details, but a family member has just liquidated, several properties, around 200 rental units, just worn down after many years of trying to deal with nearly everything himself, of in a batch of units in TX, local managers handled a lot of it… Huge relief, investing it lifted all that stress nicely…
That just compounds the problem IMO, relinquishing more control over your asset to another party. A landlord has to be able to make judgements on who would be a good fit in their property, carefully avoiding the third rail of protected class and being sure to treat all tenants similarly. No doubt there are good management companies out there. I gave up trying to find one after several attempts.
Our area saw rent prices skyrocket after the introduction of eviction bans during Covid. It all of the sudden became riskier to rent your place and increased rents were required to reflect that increased risk. Just what does the County think will happen when they take away another tool used to screen for a good tenant?
Rental prices here skyrocketed here in Sonoma County after the firestorm a couple years back, never came back down as insurance monies paid dearly… the majority of the rental units were in Houston, pretty much just growing pains, but he had good local managers, hopefully they were kept on… Never an easy job, never my cup of tea, be he handled it well, many long term folks…