Legal Aid of North Carolina recently announced it had settled a housing discrimination complaint filed with the North Carolina Human Relations Commission on behalf of an individual who was denied rental housing due to a criminal background screening policy. The complaint alleged that the apartment community, based on its criminal history policy, unlawfully rejected the Complainant’s rental application because of an almost 50-year-old felony conviction, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. The complaint further alleged that the Respondents lacked a clear procedure for the individual to request an individualized review of the rental application. The Respondents denied the allegations that it had violated the FHA.
As a result of the conciliation agreement signed by the parties and approved by the North Carolina Human Relations Commission, the Respondent property management company:
- Revised its criminal background policy and forms to ensure compliance with the FHA and related guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development;
- Implemented the revised criminal background policy at all residential properties owned or managed by the Respondent;
- Provided notice of employees of the new criminal background policy;
- Required Respondent’s employees directly involved in showing, renting, or managing any rental property it owned or managed to attend fair housing training; and
- Paid the Complainant $30,000 in damages.
Hope Williams, Supervising Attorney of the Fair Housing Project, noted that overly broad criminal background policies that reject applicants without considering how long ago the conviction occurred and that fail to provide for an appeal procedure that allows an individual to present information about their life since the conviction, can violate fair housing laws, stating “we commend the Respondents in this case for agreeing to implement new policies and procedures related to criminal background screening consistent with fair housing laws at all its communities across North Carolina.”
Legal Aid of North Carolina’s involvement in this litigation was made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program.
More from this Newsletter Issue: December 2023
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