Landlords in a Changing “Fair Chance” Landscape Must Have the Right Screening Tools

By Michael Klazema on 9/12/2019

In the United States, at least 100 million people rent the homes and apartments that they live in, contributing hundreds of billions of dollars to a critical component of the real estate sector. The rental market does not only represent massive property management firms and moguls with broad; many real estate professionals own only one or a few properties. In both cases, protecting the substantial investment that a landlord makes in each property means being careful about who becomes a tenant. 

Screening tenants through an application and vetting process is an essential step for landlords. The goal is simple: to secure a timely source of rent from someone who can keep a rental unit in good shape for future tenants. In the past, landlords enjoyed a broad latitude in how they screened tenants and what could count as a disqualifying factor. However, "fair chance" laws have made the leap from the employment sector to the rental industry, and they’ve brought with them many changes for landlords and tenant screenings. 

Landlords Must Contend with an Evolving Regulatory Landscape 

Under these rules, implemented in varying forms in areas that include Seattle, Portland, and the state of New Jersey, landlords face restrictions on when and how they may use background checks to screen tenants. Proponents of these protections point to America's high rates of incarceration and recidivism as signs of the need for easier access to housing for ex-offenders. Those in opposition believe that it puts too great a burden on landlords while infringing on their ability to make tenant choices that they think are safe. 

Rules proposed in Minneapolis in August 2019 represent a textbook example of how these policies may function. According to MinnPost, under the proposed guidelines, landlords would no longer be able to deny applicants based on certain felony convictions if they occurred between 7 and 10 years ago; the limit for misdemeanors would be 3 years. Landlords could not consider non-conviction arrests. Legislators have also proposed prohibiting tenant decisions based solely on credit score.  

Tenant Screening Remains a Vital Step in the Rental Process 

Under evolving “fair chance” trends, rental property owners still recognize the need for thorough vetting. Minneapolis legislators proposed an alternative path for those who wished to continue with their existing tenant screening procedures: those landlords would need to conduct a personalized tenant assessment. With potential access to such an option even under shifting “fair chance” expectations, it may benefit landlords and rental operators to reconsider the efficiency and effectiveness of their existing tenant vetting solutions. 

Governmental efforts to reduce discrimination in the housing market may come and go, but the need for landlords to have access to an effective and compliant way to screen potential tenants remains the same. Having all the facts in hand makes the rental approval process simpler and safer for landlords. provides a variety of essential tools to suit this purpose, including instant criminal history results through our US OneSEARCH. Find out how these products support landlords nationwide.

Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • October 15  What’s new with Uber and Lyft background checks? We look at the latest developments in ridesharing and driver screening.
  • October 10 Seasonal work plays a critical role in the economy every year as companies bulk up for the rush of holiday business. Does the pressure to quickly build staff stop businesses from using strong background screenings?
  • October 08 LifeWay is a Nashville-based organization that supplies bibles, hymnals, educational materials, and other resources to thousands of churches nationwide. LifeWay offers the OneSource program, which connects churches and organizations to discounted services for background checks.
  • October 03 A fingerprint background check is often considered the gold standard of background checks. How far back does a fingerprint background check go?
  • October 03 Businesses continue to take advantage of outside contractors to perform work, but is the approach too hands-off? Avoiding common pitfalls requires practical hiring policies.
  • October 01 For years, the idea of a temporary (or “temp”) worker remained relatively rare. Some businesses have always used temps and temp agencies to fill stopgap needs, but such practices have not been widespread—until now. The rise of the gig economy has pushed businesses in nearly every industry to reconsider their hiring strategies. 
  • September 26 White-collar crimes such as fraud and embezzlement can severely impact a business internally and externally. How can companies protect themselves from this threat? 
  • September 25 Do Nevada background check laws include a reporting limit on criminal convictions? We set the record straight on this confusing subject.
  • September 24 Employee background checks and volunteer background checks are among the most critical strategies that religious organizations can use to make sure those protections are in place. 
  • September 19 Some employers believe that looking at an applicant's life online can yield important insights for hiring. Is a social media screening useful—or even legal?