Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lawsuit challenges background checks for apartments

From the NY Times:

A leading provider of social services for recently released prisoners is challenging a New York City landlord that, it says, has a policy of not renting to people with criminal records.

The social services group, the Fortune Society, filed a lawsuit on Thursday in federal court contending that such bans were illegal because they disproportionately affect black and Latino men, and that such disparate impact was in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and New York State law.

The lawsuit was brought against the owners and manager of the Sand Castle, a rental complex in Far Rockaway, Queens, with more than 900 apartments. The suit is one of the latest efforts in a nationwide push to make it easier to integrate people emerging from prisons back into their communities.

Concern over legal restrictions that hinder former prisoners’ efforts to find jobs and homes, long voiced by advocates of criminal justice reform, has taken on a broader urgency in recent years. Faced with stark fiscal pressures and rising criticism, many state governments have been rethinking practices that led to record levels of incarceration. Nationwide, about 700,000 people a year are currently being released from prison.

Some states and cities have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking about criminal histories during the initial round of a job application. In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed an executive order in 2011 banning questions about criminal histories by city agencies until the second job interview, and limiting the use of any criminal record that was disclosed.

But housing is a newer front.


Anonymous said...

Can't we just send these criminals to Scranton? Housing is cheaper there anyway.

Anonymous said...

Why is it a problem to discriminate? The owner is trying to keep his building clean and crime free. Its private property he should be able to rent to whoever he wants.

When these released prisoners turn the building into a crack den and destroy the place then everyone blames the owner. I see nothing wrong with what is being done.

Anonymous said...

Rapists, murderers, thieves and molesters are all welcome in the liberal societal neighborhoods of NYC.

Just keep them in Far Rockaway and away from Park Ave., the upper east and west side and of course Park Slope.

georgetheatheist said...

A sociological tale:

A home-owner Asian friend of mine in Broadway-Flushing rents her ground floor apartment in a two-family attached house only to Asians. She does this by advertising the availability of said apartment in the Chinese newspaper. Ergo, only Chinese show up to look at the apartment. Her fellow-owner next door, a Caucasian, does not.

My friend told me yesterday that she had to send her son next door to tell the non-Asian Hispanic neighboring tenants not to smoke marijuana because the fumes were going through the walls and were affecting my friends tenants' 4-month old baby.

The Hispanic neighbors agreed to open their windows while toking.

Anonymous said...

Record high levels of population will of course lead to record high levels of incarceration. NY answers by making it harder to get arrested or just not enforcing the law. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

There was a time in which private property was respected. It was also the time when most NYC neighborhoods were clean and crime free. But then we were forced to integrate with undesirables through school bussing which led to us leaving to more desirable areas. Now even that is being threatened as we are forced to once again integrate with undesirables through housing. It seems our only option as a people is to move out of the state completely. I tried staying a few years ago but left after getting fed up with this ridiculous idea of multiculturalism. We all know what that really means. I live in the midwest now and let me tell you, it was the best decision I made. Not too much multiculturalism if you know what I mean.

Tyrone Jackson said...

I'm gonna sue the Dakota co-op at 72nd and Central Park West.

Those people had the nerve to ask me for financial statements and my income history!

That's ray-ciss!!

Anonymous said...

Why is it that a felon - Mike Vick - still gets paid millions and is STILL LOVED BY MILLIONS OF ASSHOLES and some poor guy that got popped for holding some pot or having sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend after he had turned eighteen can never have a life again?

There's such a bullshit double standard in this country - if you're a politician, corporate robber baron, athlete, pop or film star your arrests mean nothing, while the average person can't even get a minimum-wage job at CVS?

No background checks for apartments or jobs - if you did your time you've paid back to society!

Anonymous said...

It is already illegal to ask potential tenants about their immigration status. They can just add another clause to that law.

zee zeem said...

This is a tough one. There is no point in keeping people homeless once they have served their time.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do said...

This is a tough one.

It's only a "tough one" until the felons want to live in YOUR building.

Anonymous said...

more rules that serve to protect the worst of society at the expense of the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Would you want a child molester or murderer working in a child or senior day care center??????

Joe Moretti said...

"contending that such bans were illegal because they disproportionately affect black and Latino men."

Then maybe the issue should be why so many Black and Latino people are in prison. Granted this for profit prison system is fucked up and with these ridiculous marijuana laws (make it legal in this country), Black and Latino men are more of a target, but even beyond that, Blacks and Latino have for decades made up a larger percentage of the prison population.

Nothing wrong with background checks, but it also depends on the crime. Having someone who went to jail for selling pot is completely different from someone who committed rape, robbery or assault.

Anonymous said...

What share of people who have been in prison were convicted of something violent?

Drug posesion and theft of services are the two most common reasons people get arrested by the NYPD. Theft of services is mostly jumping the turnstile in the subway.


NYPD enforces both in neighborhoods with bigger problems. Cast a wide enough dragnet and you'll catch some violent criminals too. That goes a good way towards explaining the racial disparity.

It's good policy to help those caught in these dragnets keep their lives from falling apart. Someone who gets a misdemeanor for something non violent and then has trouble finding a job or an apartment is more likely to become violent.

Anonymous said...

As a landlord, this policy, if realized, is almost meaningless. Yes, it would prevent me from asking a prospective tenant their criminal record up front (and you think people don't lie about that when asked straight up?) But criminal records are public, and would pop up in any background check I'd run on a potential tenant. What I do with that information is not something I would advertise to the NYC Commission on Human Rights anyway.

That said, what responsible landlord would rent to violent felons? If there's a dispute, what is the person capable of doing, considering their demonstrated propensity to violence? Think their friends won't come calling either?