Mar 31

Over on the ApartmentAssoc Yahoo Group an owner asks

“I had a person call me today that said his criminal record was being expunged by the governor of Illinois and that it is discrimination to reject applications due to criminal convictions. “

Fair Housing concerns are a two step process.  First, is the applicant a member of a protected class?  Be sure to check local, state and federal fair housing rules.  In most of Wisconsin criminal arrest records are NOT a protected class. Dane County may or may not be different.  Make sure you read the full list including the fairly recent  protections for victims of domestic violence. Also note the law is different for hiring.

The second part of the test is did the landlord or their agent take adverse action due to the applicant being a member of a protected class.  However just because a person is a member of a protected class does not mean you must accept them if they fail other reasonable screening criteria equally applied to all applicants.  

You get into trouble by applying different criteria to different applicants.  So for example if you have an income criteria and you allow people that look, talk and worship like you to slide in with income that is a bit less, but do not make the same accommodations for those who do not look, talk or worship like you, you will get into trouble.  

Therefore you should have  written criteria and apply it to all applicants equally.  This does not mean you can’t change it if you find it isn’t working, but make that change apply to all applicants from that day forward. 

Your criteria must be yours, for your type of properties.  I feel a reasonable criteria has time limits for consideration of things like criminal convictions and evictions.  We have four classes of crimes that different lengths of rejection periods.  With that said we personally do not accept registered sex offenders regardless of how old their crime is.

Remember too that you must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.  So for example if someone needs to pay on the third because they are on SSI for a disability you MUST change your late policy for that person. 

Finally, if you have an income based criteria you must include all sources; retirement, W-2. Child Support, Social Security, Food Stamps, Unemployment Compensation, etc.

In WI the protected classes are:


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