Legal Tip: Criminal Background Checks – Legal or Not?

QUESTION:  Did the federal government ban landlords, property managers and rental agents from using criminal background checks to screen tenants?

ANSWER:  No. However, those of you who are landlords, property managers, and rental agents should review your criminal background check procedures to make sure that they do not violate fair housing laws as a result of action by the federal government.

The US Supreme Court ruled that individuals who are members of protected classes, such as race or national origin, may file fair housing claims if a rental requirement imposes a disparate or unfair burden on members of that protected class. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determined that criminal background checks, such as arrests that did not result in convictions, or misdemeanors, can disproportionately impact members of some minority groups and prevent them from obtaining housing.

Review these tips from the National Association of REALTORS®  to limit the risk that your criminal background check process could result in a fair housing claim.

Fair Housing Act: Criminal History-Based Practices & Policies


Questions?  Contact the RIAR Legal Department at 401-432-5945 or email




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