The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) declared it would take more steps associated with criminal history screening. This decision comes after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) requested information concerning background tenant screening. This Request for Information (RFI) addressed concerns associated with rental housing.
According to HUD, it comprehensively reviewed its policies, guidance, and regulations before making this announcement. In addition, the Department planned to issue new technical assistance and advice to help HUD-affiliated owners, including public housing agencies (PHAs). For example, it would help determine a conviction’s relevance to safety and health and detail how to conduct individualized assessments when considering criminal history. They also plan to release additional information and details concerning this announcement in the coming weeks.
After reviewing criminal screening issues, HUD improved some regulations and sub-regulatory provisions. By clarifying these provisions, the Department could ensure that HUD-affiliated owners and PHAs follow the best practices. Examples include the following:
HUD pointed out that several of their public housing agencies and providers have already implemented these principles. As such, the forthcoming notice of proposed rulemaking will become required for other PHAs and providers. The FTC and CFPB also intend to make housing more obtainable for people with a criminal record. Accordingly, they have an ongoing request for comment concerning the criminal screening of applicants for rental housing.
The CFPB and the FTC have requested information on several issues affecting tenant background screening. They have proposed these questions to prospective tenants, property managers, current tenants, commercial and individual landlords, advocacy groups, background screening companies, consumer reporting agencies, and others. Some of the issues they touched upon include the following:
The CFPB and FTC want to identify practices that could unfairly keep consumers from attaining and retaining housing. In addition, they believe the comments will provide information that will help the agencies decide on enforcement and policy actions.
Congress has also been considering tenant screening. Recently, a Senate Committee discussed the subject during a Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing. The discussion emphasized the importance of adequate consumer protection. The Committee also discussed ensuring that landlords observed consumer protections correctly when obtaining information about prospective renters.
With the increased attention to tenant screening, landlords and property managers must ensure they follow all federal, state, and local regulations when conducting these screenings. The best way to ensure compliance with these regulations is to partner with a background check company. The right partner will prove familiar with tenant screenings and up-to-date with all relevant laws and regulations.
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