BBG News

Criminal Backgrounds No Longer Check-Able?

Jan 23, 2023

A proposed law that is pending at the New York City Council would bar any person “having the right to sell, rent or lease, or approve the sale, rental or lease of” an apartment from: (i) refusing to sell, rent, or lease, or approve the sale, rental or lease to, or otherwise denying a housing accommodation from, a person due to his/ her arrest record or criminal history, or (ii) even doing a background check as to an applicant’s arrest record or criminal history. Doing either would constitute housing discrimination under the proposed law.

The proposed law, known as Intro. 632 of 2022, is accessible here.

The proposed law is written broadly enough to include not only owners of rental apartment buildings, but also coop and condo Boards, co-op and condo apartment owners wishing to lease out their apartments, and the buildings’ management companies that process all such sale, leasing and subletting applications for such co-ops and condominiums. Real estate brokers, who normally participate in the background check process, would also be prohibited from doing so.

While limited background checks would still be allowed on the sex offender registry, the applicant would have to be notified in writing in advance of the inquiry being made, and would have to be given at least three days’ opportunity to withdraw his/her housing application before the inquiry is actually made.

The proposed law would not apply to a rental or sale in a two-family house if the homeowner or his/her family members are also in occupancy, or to any other form of housing accommodation if the owner or members of his/her family reside there. Unlike past efforts by the City Council, this proposed law apparently has a good chance of passing—-it is co-sponsored by 31 of the 51 City Council members, as well as by four of the five Borough Presidents. The proposed law was most recently the subject of a hearing by the Council’s Committee on Civil and Human Rights on December 8.

The proposed law would bar co-op Boards, and co-op and condo apartment owners–let alone owners of rental apartment buildings-from being able to exercise the common sense right to decide whether or not to lease an apartment, or to approve an apartment sale, lease or sublease, to a person with a criminal history. The proposed law would block even inquiring into a person’s criminal past.

The proposed law would have a disastrous impact on an already-weakened apartment market in a City going through unprecedented challenges, and should be opposed vigorously by co-op and condo Boards, apartment owners, and rental building owners. Please contact your City Councilperson to register your opposition to the bill.

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