New Jersey’s Begins Enforcement of State’s Ban-the-Box Protections for Renters
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office recently stated that it has begun enforcing the state’s Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA). They have sent notices of violation to thirty New Jersey housing providers.
This Act is similar to “Ban-the-Box” laws for employment. In this case, it prevents landlords from considering potential tenants’ criminal history until making a conditional offer. This change is good news if you have a criminal background because landlords cannot reject your application before considering it.
However, landlords may consider only specific criminal histories after making a conditional offer. These backgrounds include:
- Convictions for murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, human trafficking, and endangering the welfare of a child in violation of N.J.S.2C:24-4(b)(3);
- Convictions for a crime that requires lifetime registration in the state sex offender list;
- Convictions for a 1st-degree indictable offense, or release from prison for such an offense in the prior six years;
- Convictions for a 2nd or 3rd-degree indictable offense, or release from prison for such an offense in the prior four years;
- Convictions for a 4th-degree indictable offense or release from prison for such an offense in the prior year
If the landlord decides to withdraw their conditional offer based on your criminal record, they must complete an individualized assessment. This assessment must consider the following:
- The nature and severity of the offense(s);
- The age of the applicant at the time of the offense(s);
- The amount of time since the offense(s);
- Information the applicant provides in their favor;
- Any impact a recurrence of the offense(s) would have on the property or other tenants; and
- Whether the offense(s) occurred on or in connection to property rented or leased by the applicant.
The landlord is also required to supply you with a Notice of Withdrawal. This notice will contain why the landlord withdrew the offer and notifies you of your right to appeal the decision. You’ll have 30 days from receiving the message to request all information the housing provider used in deciding to withdraw the offer. Once the housing provider receives the timely request, they have ten days to provide the report, free of charge.
You can then use this information to appeal the decision with a claim that the landlord violated the FCHA. Your appeal must include any additional information that supports this claim. The housing provider will have 30 days to consider this new information and decide based on what you presented. If you believe the landlord violated your rights under the FCRA, you will also have 180 days to file a complaint to the Division of Civil Rights.
This Act may benefit anyone with criminal records and looking for housing. First, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the law to ensure no one violates your rights as a potential tenant. Conducting a self-background check before applying for housing could also be helpful. Running a self-background check will allow you to correct any errors on the report, preventing landlords from receiving misinformation about your qualifications. Seeing the report yourself also allows you to explain parts of your criminal history as needed.
Background checks don’t have to be complicated. Try running a Self Background Check today and give yourself a head start.