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Keeping up with rental industry laws is always a challenge, so we’ve rounded up questions from AAOA members and found expert attorneys to answer them. I don’t want to rent to felons. Can I specify that as an exclusion on my rental application? No, you should not include such a requirement or
The prudent course of action would be to exclude any statement or practice of a blanket exclusion of renting to criminals. Instead, you should evaluate each applicant individually and in a non- discriminatory manner. As part of your vetting process, you may check the applicant’s criminal conviction history unless your rental property is located in a city that prohibits doing so, such as Oakland or Berkeley. Upon discovering a conviction, you should consider how long ago the offense occurred, the nature and severity of it, and particularly, whether it has a substantial and direct negative bearing on the rental of the property, such as the safety of other residents, employees, or the property itself. If it does have a substantial and direct negative bearing, then you may be able to deny the applicant on this basis alone. But it should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and you should always be thorough, consistent, and non-discriminatory with your application and rental practices.
statement on your rental application. Fair housing laws prohibit landlords from having a blanket ban on renting to persons with a criminal record. But this doesn’t mean that you must rent to convicted criminals in all cases. You just cannot have a blanket ban on doing so. Fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against a person because of protected characteristics. These prohibitions apply before, during, and throughout the entire duration of a residential tenancy, including the advertising, application, and vetting process. In California, the list of protected characteristics is long and growing. While the list does not specifically identify “felons” as a protective characteristic, the list is not exhaustive, and adverse action against a group of people may still violate fair housing laws. Furthermore, some cities, including Oakland and Berkeley, have passed laws specifically prohibiting landlords from inquiring about criminal history or refusing to consider or rent to a person based on criminal history.
Steven C. Williams Attorney and Partner Fried, Williams & Grice Conners
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