Portland May Propose Tenant Screening Rules On Criminal History, Credit

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The Editors's picture

The Portland City Council may be asked to make changes in current rules applying to tenant screening and criminal background checks, credit checks or financial stability, according to reports.

Willamette Week is reporting that City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly wants the council to look into creating new tenant screening rules involving criminal background checks and credit reports.

Under the proposed rules, landlords couldn't set a policy requiring tenants to have an income that is more than twice their monthly rent when the current industry practice is usual 3 times or 2.5 times the rent, according to the newspaper.

Landlords have tenant screening rules already in place

Ron Garcia, President of the Rental Housing Alliance of Oregon, said on the Lars Lawson Show, that the whole proposal is by a group of activists at work and that current tenant screening is working and is fair to good tenants.

Garcia told Lars Larson that Oregon passed a law in 2013, Senate Bill 91, and that  put restrictions on landlords as to what type of criminal background they could screen against.

“If a conviction has passed over five years we still have to rent to them. If somebody has what was a conviction, but was dismissed because the people ended up paying the restitution, then they are exempt from any kind of criminal screening,” Garcia told the show.

“If the crimes are drug related, sex crimes, personal offenses - they can be used,” he said. It is the kinds of crimes that people who live next door are worried about – “having bad news guys living next door to you. We can screen for those types of people. But if the crime were drunk driving, unless it was property or personal violence or property related, those crimes cannot be used in the screening,” Garcia said.

Landlords think tenants should voice concerns over removing screening rules

“I think tenants really need to voice their concerns. They're really the people that are going to be living next door and across the way from these people.

“If tenants voice their dissatisfaction with the fact that they are trying to eliminate and expunge criminal background from records, they're the ones that are going be in jeopardy. They should let Mayor Wheeler and the City of Portland know,” Garcia told Lars Larson.

Landlords are not the bad guys

There are many groups. Community Alliance of Tenants, Portland Tenant United but unfortunately they are advocating on the opposite side, Garcia said.

"They are somehow saying that these are rent barriers that landlords have put in place that need to be eliminated. I believe that what they're advocating for is in direct opposition of the safety and well-being for the people they ostensibly advocate for,” Garcia said.

Listen to the full conversation on this with Lars Larson here.

Similar issues in Seattle where landlords sued the city

The Pacific Legal Foundation and the Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHAWA) have filed suit against the City of Seattle over the ordinance which bans landlords from most criminal background checks when screening an applicant. The suit argues the ordinance violates due process and free speech.

Seattle’s Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, passed by city council in 2017, forbids landlords from considering applicants’ criminal histories when selecting tenants. In other words, landlords cannot base a rental decision on concerns over their own safety or the safety of other tenants and neighbors. Violators face fines and penalties of up to $55,000.

The Rental Housing Association of Washington said in a release, “The ordinance is based on the flawed reasoning that inequities of our criminal justice system can be solved by limiting the rights of property owners from making informed decisions about the person(s) with whom they enter into rental agreements.
 
“Rental property owners recognize the struggle for applicants with criminal convictions history and the industry supports measures like Certificates of Restoration of Opportunities and simple “ban the box” legislation to ensure that an individual’s full list of qualifications are considered. However, the ostensibly blanket restrictions imposed by the City put rental property owners at too high of a risk of exposure to the safety of other tenants and their property,” RHAWA Interim Executive Director, Sean Martin, said in the release.

Resources:

Listen to Ron Garcia on Lars Larson Show: Should The Government Help People Hide Their Criminal Records For Housing?

Portland Landlords Outraged by Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s Proposal to Limit Screenings of Tenant Criminal History

Landlords Sue Seattle Over Criminal Background Check Restrictions

 

 

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