Law in the news.

Criminal background checks protect tenants and landlords

Every landlord is expected to run criminal background checks on prospective tenants in order to protect their current residents, but much more is expected of landlords leasing federally subsidized units. Because federal policy views state sex offenders as an imminent danger to other tenants, landlords renting federally subsidized housing are legally obligated to refuse tenancy to sex offenders.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Federal Housing Act, a landlord “must establish standards that prohibit admission to federally assisted housing if any member of the household is subject to a lifetime registration requirement under the State Sex Offender Registration Program.” If you are a landlord renting federally subsidized units in Pittsburgh, you’re expected to perform Pennsylvania criminal background checks on every member of the household applying for a unit, as well as background checks in other states where they “are known to have resided.”

Should an individual registered as a sex offender resume criminal activity while living in your building because you failed to run a necessary criminal background check, it could lead to tenants filing action against you. One way to ensure compliance with federal subsidized housing provisions excluding sex offenders as tenants is to develop a written policy on performing mandatory criminal background checks. Please call or email John Corcoran at (412) 261-6400 or jpc@jgcg.com to discuss how to best position yourself to protect your tenants and promote good business practices.

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