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Can Landlords Discriminate Against Criminals?

All landlords should be familiar with “protected classes” of individuals.  Those protected classes are typically based on race, gender, national origin, religion, age (over 40), and disability.  According to Federal and State law it is unlawful for a landlord to discriminate against a prospective tenant based on any of these factors.  For example, a landlord can’t choose to lease his or her property to one tenant over another based solely on the color of their skin or religious preference. 


What many landlords don’t know is that not everyone fits into one of these “protected classes”.  One such group is criminals.  Here’s an excerpt from a recent Legal Intelligencer article:

Obviously, a landlord generally wants to create a safe environment for his or her tenants and the others who live in the vicinity of the landlord’s property. Although seemingly responsible, may a landlord attempt to achieve the goal of safety by discriminating against potential tenants on the basis of their criminal records? As criminals or former criminals are not among those within the protected classes described above, discrimination against people with criminal records is legal.

There are some rules though.  If a landlord is going to include a criminal background check as a criteria for extending a lease then the background check must be conducted on EVERY applicant.  The same standards must apply to each and every applicant regardless of their protected class.  For more from the article click here


To make sure you are in compliance with all policies and regulations regarding fair housing and discrimination it’s best to consult an expert.  Contact Real Property Management today to find out if your screening policies are in compliance with state and federal laws. 


We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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