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Tipsheet

NYC Landlords May Soon Be Banned From Performing Background Checks on Prospective Tenants

LightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Landlords in New York City may soon be prohibited from conducting criminal background checks on prospective tenants under a new piece of legislation under review by city lawmakers.

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The legislation, called the “Fair Chance for Housing Act,” would even prohibit landlords from performing background checks on prospective tenants convicted of murder and other violent crimes, according to the New York Post

Reportedly, the legislation does not prohibit landlords from checking New York’s sex offender registry for prospective tenants, but the current language leaves landlords “vulnerable” to renting their properties to sex offenders who committed crimes in other states because out-of-state sex offender registries are not outlined in the legislation.

And, the bill does not affect New York City Housing Authority complexes, as they are required by federal law to carry out background checks. The bill also excludes homeowners renting out single rooms.

The Post reported that at least 30 of the 51 members of the City Council have agreed to support the bill. A spokesperson for New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) told the outlet that the mayor will support the bill if it reaches his desk.

“No one should be denied housing because they were once engaged with the criminal justice system, plain and simple,” Charles Lutvack, a spokesman for Adams, said. “We will work closely with our partners in the City Council to ensure this bill has maximum intended impact.”

Councilwoman Inna Verikov, a Republican from Brooklyn, shared a video on Twitter urging constituents to tell their lawmakers to vote “no” on the legislation. 

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“If you read the title of the bill you will see that this is being done in the name of equity and inclusion and to prohibit housing discrimination based on arrest records,” Vernikov said in the video. “Well, last time I checked, criminals were not a protected class entitled to equal protection of the law.”

“Make no mistake, if this bill passes, the safety of your families, your children, your grandparents, your grandchildren is at stake,” she explained. “Your landlord will not be allowed to check if the tenants moving next door to you to be your neighbors have ever committed any crimes, have ever robbed, stabbed or murdered anyone.”

“Murdered someone? Beat up your girlfriend? Robbed? Stabbed your neighbor? No problem. Come live among us!” she wrote in the tweet accompanying the video.

The Post noted that murders in the city’s subway system have “skyrocketed” to the highest annual levels in 25 years. Other “noteworthy and heinous crimes have persisted,” the outlet added.

Vito Signorile, a spokesperson for the Rent Stabilization Association, said that many of the 25,000 members of his organization are “irate” at the legislation and are “getting an earful” from their tenants who do not want to live in buildings with violent criminals.

“We are proponents of second chances when it comes to low-level crimes like drug use but renting to people convicted more serious crimes like … arson and murder [and repeat offenders] is a whole other thing,” Signorile told The Post.

Earlier this year, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, signed legislation to refer to prisoners as “incarcerated individuals.” 

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According to Hochul’s website, the legislation will “reduce harmful stigma against incarcerated people by correcting outdated terminology” in an effort to “promote greater fairness and restore dignity for individuals that have been affected by the criminal justice system.”

And this month, a convicted murderer released on parole from state prison tried to kidnap an 8-year-old child in New York City. The young girl was reportedly walking with her father in broad daylight when the convicted criminal grabbed and restrained the young girl. Her father intervened and wrestled his child from the criminal and got the attention of police officers who were patrolling the area. 

The father spoke to Bronx-based outlet News 12 and said that his child is “traumatized” and won’t go outside anymore. The criminal, who was identified as Juan Rivera, 52, was reportedly charged with kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment and harassment.

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