Recently, Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, Plaza & Reed P.C., Attorneys at Law’s Derek D. Reed, Esq. had an article featured in the New Jersey Apartment Association’s Apartment Industry Magazine. The article covers the Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA). The FCHA was signed into law last June, and it went into effect January 1, 2022. The new law changes how criminal background checks work for those applying for residential housing in the Garden State.
Attorney Reed’s Article Provides a Comprehensive Explanation of the Fair Chance in Housing Act
Attorney Reed’s article provides an in-depth explanation about the Fair Chance in Housing Act, including the new law’s timeline, which began with the FCHA being signed into law by the governor in June 2021. However, the law did not go into effect until January of this year. The FCHA changes the procedures that housing providers in New Jersey must follow when performing criminal background screenings on housing applicants. The updated application procedures include the following:
- Before the applicant pays an application fee, the housing provider must provide the applicant with a disclosure statement informing them that they will be conducting a criminal background screening during the application process.
- The housing provider must perform other screenings, such as credit, income, and eviction history screenings, before conducting a criminal background check.
- The housing provider must approve or deny the application based solely on the credit, income, and eviction history screenings first before they are allowed to review an applicant’s criminal history.
- If the applicant is approved based solely on the income, eviction history, and credit checks, then the housing provider must inform them they are conditionally approved and that they will next undergo a criminal background check.
- After conditionally approving an applicant, the housing provider can perform a criminal background check. If criminal convictions are found that fall within the permissible lookback period, the housing provider cannot immediately deny the application. Instead, they must conduct an individual assessment of the applicant’s criminal history.
- The housing provider must approve or deny the applicant based on findings from conducting an individual assessment of the applicant’s criminal history. If the applicant is denied, the housing provider must prove that the denial was for a nondiscriminatory, legitimate, and substantial reason.
How Do FCHA Individual Assessments Work?
As stated earlier, if the housing provider does discover a criminal conviction that falls within the lookback period, they cannot simply deny the applicant housing. Instead, the housing provider must conduct an individual assessment on the applicant to determine if their application should be approved or denied based on their criminal history.
There are specific factors that housing providers are directed to consider when performing an individual assessment, including:
- The type of crime committed and the severity of the crime.
- How old the applicant was at the time they committed the crime.
- How long it has been since the crime was committed.
- Any information provided by the applicant or others that shows how the applicant has been rehabilitated since the crime was committed.
- How much the criminal offense, if it happened again, would negatively impact the safety of the housing provider’s other residents.
- Whether the crime involved or took place at or near a property the applicant was leasing or renting.
The Fair Chance in Housing Act helps give opportunities to people who have unfortunately been denied housing in the past solely because of their criminal history. Ensuring that the circumstances surrounding a criminal conviction are considered when housing providers perform criminal background checks, gives people with a criminal record a legitimate chance to secure housing.
More About Attorney Derek D. Reed and Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, Plaza & Reed P.C., Attorneys at Law
Attorney Derek D. Reed is a partner at Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, Plaza & Reed P.C., Attorneys at Law. He earned his Juris Doctor from the Syracuse University College of Law in 2003 and has been a practicing attorney for nearly two decades.
Attorney Reed specializes in commercial litigation, real estate litigation, rent control disputes, landlord/tenant matters, Fair Housing Act (FHA) and New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) issues, and commercial and residential leasing matters. Attorney Reed’s work in these practice areas has earned him the distinction of being considered a recognized authority concerning those issues. As a recognized authority in those practice areas, Attorney Reed has received national recognition, led seminars and classes, and made several media appearances on behalf of Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, Plaza & Reed P.C., Attorneys at Law.
Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, Plaza & Reed P.C., Attorneys at Law has been serving clients throughout New York City and New Jersey since 1955. We are dedicated to using our knowledge and expertise to help our clients achieve the best possible outcomes for their cases. We have years of experience helping clients protect their rights and secure favorable resolutions to complex legal matters.