Detroit Bans the Box for Housing Applications

By Michael Klazema on 2/26/2019

Up to this point, most ban the box policies in the U.S. have focused on job applications, either for public/government jobs or for positions with private employers. Following the passage of a new ordinance in Detroit, there could be a growing push to ban the box in another category: housing.

Per a report from the Michigan Chronicle, a Detroit-based newspaper, the Detroit City Council recently voted to approve a new Fair Chance ordinance covering housing. Once the ordinance is in effect, most of the rental housing options available in Detroit will open to individuals with a criminal history: most landlords will no longer be allowed to ask questions about criminal history on their housing applications.

The policy is designed to help the large number of ex-offenders who return to Detroit each month after serving prison time. The Chronicle article puts the number of returning prisoners at 200. Based on the city’s overall recidivism rate, 150 of those returning prisoners—75 percent—will end up committing another crime. One philosophy is that by offering more opportunities for work and housing, communities like Detroit can lower their recidivism rate and help ex-offenders stay on the right path.

Janeé Ayers, a black woman and a council member-at-large with Detroit’s City Council, introduced the ordinance and advocated for its passage. The council ultimately voted unanimously to support Ayers’ proposal. Ayers told the Chronicle that the ordinance would help solve a common problem in which returning prisoners “have nowhere to go” and nowhere to live, even if they can find gainful employment.

Detroit has an existing ban the box policy that applies to some jobs. In 2010, the Detroit City Council voted in favor of an ordinance that banned the box for city jobs. The policy also extended to vendors working with the city on a contract basis. At this time, Detroit does not have a ban the box policy that applies to private employers of any size.

Under the recently-passed Fair Chance Ordinance for housing, landlords with a portfolio of five or more rental units will be required to eliminate inquiries about criminal history from their housing applications. Only once the landlord has determined that the applicant is “qualified to rent under all other phases of the application process” is he or she allowed to request a criminal background check.

Even after conducting a background check, landlords will only be allowed to deny housing applicants based on criminal history if the crimes are “relevant to the safety of other people or property.” Candidates with a violent criminal history, sex offender status, or a history of destructive crimes like arson can be disqualified. Most minor crimes will not be considered appropriate grounds for dismissing a candidate.

Landlords who do decide to disqualify renters based on criminal history must give the applicant in question an opportunity “to provide evidence of rehabilitation.” Prospective tenants who feel like they have been treated in an unfair or discriminatory manner will have the option to file a formal complaint with the Detroit Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity.

At, we have a program to help people whose criminal backgrounds act as a bar to employment, housing, or other aspects of responsible citizenry. This program, called MyClearStart, can help you determine your eligibility for expungement or record sealing. If you have already expunged a criminal record and are having difficulty getting it removed from criminal history databases, our Expungement Clearinghouse program can help.



Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • March 19 is a popular destination for individuals seeking nannies, day cares, babysitters, and caregivers. What many users don’t realize is that the company does not vet the caregivers on its site.
  • March 19 — Whether you are a job seeker looking for an hourly position or a business owner trying to structure an hourly employment strategy, you may be curious about which companies offer the best hourly jobs.
  • March 18 Background checks for jobs at banks are typically focused on finding qualified candidates with no history of finance-related crimes.
  • March 18 — A common misconception is that salaried positions are a cut above hourly jobs regarding overall earnings. While this belief is usually true, it can be misleading.
  • March 15 Community-serving organizations turn to for reliable, detailed, and consistent employee vetting services. 
  • March 14 Adults working near children face increasing levels of scrutiny to maintain a safe environment. In some cases, these positions go unfilled—and some blame the process.
  • March 12 If a customer or client asks to see the results of an employee’s background check, can the employer share that information? Never without written authorization.
  • March 12 Utah legislators are considering a new bill that would automate much of the expungement process. Under the law, ex-offenders eligible for expungement would have their records automatically wiped clean.
  • March 07 — LightSpeed Communications is a company dedicated to bringing customers, businesses, and their communities into the new age of internet communications. Based in Michigan, LightSpeed has already made headway in bringing fiber optic networks to four of the state’s biggest cities. In this case study they describe how and why they use for employment screening.
  • March 07 After more than a year of wrangling and debate, Virginia Beach's city council adopted a resolution affirming a requirement for background checks on food truck employees.