New Jersey Bans-the-Box for Housing Decisions
The Division on Civil Rights now has new rules that will give people with a criminal history better opportunities for safe and affordable housing. These new rules took effect on January 1st, 2022, and will codify the Fair Chance in Housing Act.
General Bruck, the Acting Attorney, stated that restricting housing opportunities for people with criminal histories affects people of color, especially black people, disproportionally because of the racial disparities that exist in the criminal justice system.
The Fair Chance in Housing Act that was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy is intended to help eliminate the systematic racial disparities that his administration believes are causing disparities in the state and also help provide more stable housing for people with criminal histories, thus helping to reduce recidivism.
The Governor is trying to remove any unnecessary restrictions to obtaining housing for those who have been involved in the criminal justice system. The new act will prevent people who provide housing from having an applicant fill out any form asking about their criminal background until they have made a conditional offer for housing.
Once the housing provider has made a conditional offer of housing, they can ask questions about the applicant’s criminal background or perform a criminal background check. But, there are still requirements that the housing provider must meet before rejecting the applicant based on their criminal history.
In fact, in most cases, the housing provider will not be able to reject the applicant for having a criminal record. The housing provider must conduct an individualized assessment before rescinding the conditional offer due to the applicant having a criminal record. Also, there are factors the housing provider needs to consider, such as:
- The age of the applicant when the offense took place
- How recent the offense is
- The severity and nature of the offense
- Information the applicant chooses to provide in their favor since the offense occurred
- Whether the safety of the property or other tenants would be affected should the offense occur in the future
- Whether the offense occurred on or was related to property that the applicant rented or leased
If the housing provider decides to rescind the offer, they must inform the applicant of their decision in writing along with their reasons for withdrawing the offer. They are also required to allow the applicant to dispute the criminal record either by pointing out errors in it or showing evidence of any mitigating factors or rehabilitation.
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