NJ cant ask criminal info
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NJ cant ask criminal info (by Tony [NJ]) Jan 26, 2022 6:12 PM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by Hollis [MA]) Jan 26, 2022 7:36 PM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by NE [PA]) Jan 26, 2022 7:40 PM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by JB [OR]) Jan 26, 2022 7:57 PM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by Robert J [CA]) Jan 27, 2022 2:37 AM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by Ray-N-Pa [PA]) Jan 27, 2022 7:44 AM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by Tonia [RI]) Jan 27, 2022 9:44 AM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by Oregon Woodsmoke [ID]) Jan 27, 2022 10:23 AM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by MikeA [TX]) Jan 27, 2022 11:19 AM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by LisaFL [FL]) Jan 27, 2022 11:43 AM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by GKARL [PA]) Jan 27, 2022 3:40 PM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by Barb [MO]) Jan 27, 2022 4:25 PM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by Lana [IN]) Jan 27, 2022 8:10 PM
       NJ cant ask criminal info (by MAT [PA]) Jan 27, 2022 9:12 PM

NJ cant ask criminal info (by Tony [NJ]) Posted on: Jan 26, 2022 6:12 PM

Denied housing in NJ because of your criminal background? Here's where to report it

New Jersey landlords can no longer ask people applying for apartments about their criminal history until after making a conditional offer.

The new rule is part of the Fair Chance in Housing Act, which went into effect Jan. 1.

But criminal justice advocates are still hearing complaints that former inmates are facing discrimination when looking for housing, and urged the state Attorney General's Office to enforce the law signed last June, during a virtual press conference Wednesday organized by New Jersey Together, a network of churches and community groups across New Jersey.

The coalition asked law enforcement to proactively scour property listings and file applications to make sure landlords aren't illegally denying the formerly incarcerated housing.

"It's a question that comes up every meeting ... people are looking for housing and being denied," said Edwin Ortiz, reentry program coordinator for the Youth Advocate Program, a social justice nonprofit.

Ortiz recounted his own struggles finding a place to live after leaving prison. He bounced between his mother's couch, his sister's couch and a motel. His mother was concerned she would be evicted by her housing authority if it found out he was living with her.

For subscribers: How much can NJ landlords increase rent?

"It was difficult for me to assimilate back to mainstream society," Ortiz said. "If it were not for the Reformed Church of Highland Park Affordable Housing Corporation, I would probably still be bouncing from couch to couch."

People leaving prison are almost 10 times more likely than the general population to become homeless, according to the nonpartisan research group Prison Policy Initiative.

The attorney general's Division on Civil Rights has not received any formal complaints, according to public information officer Leland Moore. The office has reached out to housing providers "who have required guidance to come into compliance" Moore said.

"The Division on Civil Rights is committed to enforcing the Fair Chance in Housing Act, which reflects the Murphy administration's commitment to taking action to dismantle systemic racial disparities that have been allowed to exist for too long in New Jersey," Moore said.

How the law works

Under the "ban the box" law, after landlords make a conditional offer, they can only consider:

first-degree convictions, or release from prison for the offense, within the past six years.

second- or third-degree convictions, or release from prison for that offense, within the past four years.

fourth-degree convictions, or release from prison for that offense, within the past year.

convictions for murder, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, human trafficking, sexual assault or endangering the welfare of a child.

any conviction that requires lifetime registration as a sex offender.

With this information, landlords must weigh the nature and severity of the crime, the applicant's age when committing the crime, how recently the crime occurred, whether other tenants' safety is at risk if the applicant committed the crime again, whether the crime was connected to the specific property, and any information applicants provide in their favor, such as letters of recommendation.

If a landlord decides to withdraw the offer, they must give the applicant a "notice of withdrawal" that explains the reasons. The applicant can appeal the decision and present evidence that the criminal record was inaccurate, or ways the applicant has changed his or her life.

More: Behind on NJ mortgage, property taxes? $325M fund launches Feb. 8

Landlords may never consider arrests or charges that didn't result in a criminal conviction; convictions that were expunged, pardoned or vacated; crimes committed as a juvenile; or sealed records.

In the application process, landlords are allowed to ask about two scenarios: Are you required to register with the state as a sex offender for life? And have you been convicted of producing meth on federal public housing grounds?

Promise into reality

"We need to turn this act's promise into reality," said Rabbi Elliott Tepperman of Montclair synagogue Bnai Keshet. "We need to make sure that the end of discrimination that the Fair Chance in Housing Act promises for all returning citizens is, in fact, reality in our state."

The coalition shared a video of people who left prison and faced hurdles finding stable housing.

Tyleakea Price, 47, was released from Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in January 2017, after serving 20 years for armed robbery. She's currently staying in temporary housing through the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS program and has a Section 8 voucher. The voucher requires that she find a place to live in 30 days. She has received five extensions, she said.

"As recently as November of 2021, I had a landlord flat out tell me, 'I will not rent to you because you have a criminal record, and I do not want any criminals on my property,' " Price said. "It doesn't matter that I'm a productive member of society now."

Ron Pierce, now a fellow with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, was paroled to his wife's double-wide trailer in Jackson after serving 30 years in prison for murder. His wife told the owner of the property where the home was located that he was coming home, and they asked him to run a background check.

"They sent her a letter and told me I was to leave her house immediately," Pierce said. "Now, this was Christmas Eve. I was on parole and they were telling her I had to leave her house or they would start proceedings to evict her out of her own house."

The coalition also stressed the importance for landlords to cooperate and give former inmates a chance.

"I understand the things that make landlords concerned about renting to people," said Seth Kaper Dale, CEO of the Reformed Church of Highland Park Affordable Housing Corporation. "As a landlord who welcomes reentering citizens, we've had overall a wonderful experience. We sometimes wish we had more supports in terms of social services for people."

Martin Slon owns a few apartments with his wife, and said that in their experience, "credit checks, salary or even current employment are not that well correlated with talent quality."

"This law helps returning citizens get a fair chance at housing without getting automatically disqualified at the first hurdle," Slon said. "And at the same time, it seems to do this without removing landlords' ultimate ability to make an informed decision."

File a complaint

If you suspect that a landlord has violated the law, you can make a complaint to the attorney general's Division on Civil Rights by calling 833-653-2748, emailing FCHAinfo@njcivilrights.gov or visiting bias.njcivilrights.gov.

"They will launch an investigation, and that unit cannot be filled until they close that investigation and a remedy can be provided," said James Williams, director of racial justice policy at Fair Share Housing Center.

The Attorney General's Office is hosting webinar trainings to explain the Fair Chance in Housing Act on Feb. 8, March 10 and April 12.

Ashley Balcerzak is a reporter covering affordable housing and its intersection of how we live in New Jersey. For unlimited access to her work, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: balcerzaka@northjersey.com

Twitter: @abalcerzak


NJ cant ask criminal info (by Hollis [MA]) Posted on: Jan 26, 2022 7:36 PM

Just another reason I'm ready to sell.So many crazy laws since I got into this business.

Landlord Associations need to publish names of who introduced this bills and all who sponsored /signed them..maybe giving them names like (name)'s Law,...like they do with other laws like criminal laws,..

As it is these laws are pretty anonymous to who is behind them.

It would be nice to give a notice of say, rent increases due to increased costs of Mary's or John'law,..using the full name of their sponsor.

They always assume that there are more tenant voters than landlord voters.

But like I always say,..getting a bunch of LL's to organize and to do something, is like trying to herd cats,.. --66.30.xx.xxx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by NE [PA]) Posted on: Jan 26, 2022 7:40 PM

Edwin Ortiz, Social justice nonprofit. Should tell you all you need to know. --24.152.xxx.xx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by JB [OR]) Posted on: Jan 26, 2022 7:57 PM

Price said. "It doesn't matter that I'm a productive member of society now."

Haha! So now if you receive a Section 8 voucher and are simply out of prison this equates to being "a productive member of society?" Not one word of her holding down any kind of a job... --73.25.xx.xxx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by Robert J [CA]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 2:37 AM

Back in 1997 I rejected an applicant that took her rejection too personal and declared war on me. Reporting me to Housing for discrimination. Her pastor for her character reference. And public housing for not taking her voucher.

I was called before an ethics committee dealing with fair housing, not fair treatment of a landlord. After my crucifixon was almost sealed in stone, I got to make a brief statement.

The applicant refused to provide me with her social security number, drivers license did not sigh the application. Therefor I could not run her credit and background information. The committee didn't care because her pastor gave her grave reviews. Second her income, aid, was in the amount of $800 per month, the amount of the rent. I needed over 3 times the rent amount as income. The applicant said her daughter and son would help out and live there occasionally.

Now came the good part. Her son is a convicted child molesters, and the police went to the applicants current address and conducted a 2 AM raid of all 20 units liking for the applicants son. There was no way I would let a convicted child molesters move into my building that has over 20 young children's living there. The committee said I had to prove my claims. I told them that I can not obtain information on an active case, he molested a child the previous day. But the lazy committee can pick up the phone and call the police and obtain a copy of the file pronto. I was done and walked out of the hearing before they voted me a bigot, criminal or just a good landlord protecting myself and my tenants. --47.155.xx.xxx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by Ray-N-Pa [PA]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 7:44 AM

I guess there might be a bright to this - if the thug does hurt someone at the rental....a slick attorney can't sue saying the Landlord knew or should have known about the pattern of bad behavior.

So in order to combat this new law, can you require two years of documented housing history? Someone coming from the big house probably isn't going back to it to get a sheet of paper saying I was a model "resident"

Where I am not so much concerned about a small time repeat offender - I would be concerned about a violent offender Especially one who was recently released --24.101.xxx.xxx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by Tonia [RI]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 9:44 AM

It is evident that criminal conduct is on a sharp rise in U.S. The blue states are very soft on crime and putting the price on law abiding citizens. I like Ray in PA outlook although I am certain the shark attorneys will find a work around to place liability on us evil landlords for not protecting others. --172.58.xxx.xxx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by Oregon Woodsmoke [ID]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 10:23 AM

I always wonder why the tenants don't protest laws like this one. After all, it is them who will be living next door to a felon and them who gets to enjoy the criminal activities and criminal buddies who hang around.

But never a peep out of them, until they get the bad neighbor and then they are complaining to the landlord about it. --76.178.xxx.xxx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by MikeA [TX]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 11:19 AM

If I read that correctly, I don't exactly understand how this achieves what they wanted. You can't check their criminal record up front but you can conditionally offer and then run it. If they meet the conditions (IE: first degree felony in the last 6 years) then you can withdraw the offer. It just seems like they made the process harder hoping that landlords would be scared of violating the law and not run it at all. So, as Hollis said, raise the application fee and tell your applicants that they can thank (insert name of Senator that sponsored the bill) for costing them money because of the additional administrative burden. --209.16.xx.xxx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by LisaFL [FL]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 11:43 AM

Oregon Woodsmoke,

I said the same thing about the lack of tenants protesting the eviction moratorium which so clearly was going to affect all renters in the future and here we are! --24.96.xx.xxx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by GKARL [PA]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 3:40 PM

Nine times out of 10, there will be other reasons to reject anyway. Job history and rental history come immediately to mind. --172.58.xxx.xx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by Barb [MO]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 4:25 PM

How stupid.

OTOH, I had an applicant last week who was from NY and was upset because I learned AFTER he had formally applied that a)he smoked (we don't allow), b)he has a probation violation with a pending hearing that may result in jail time (We told him we needed him to sort that out before we could approve.) and c) his GF who he wanted to move in has 2 recent DV arrests and that she needed to get those sorted out (trial is scheduled for March) before we could consider approving her as a resident.

He didn't put her down on the pre-showing form, and didn't list the other there. Apparently the probation violation was scheduled after he filled out my form and I checked Casenet.

I THOUGHT it would be ok because he is active duty. He said he was looking for something quite. Sigh. Sounds like he would be the noisy one! --149.76.xxx.xx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by Lana [IN]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 8:10 PM

Indiana not so "criminally" insane...yet. I am selling as soon as any tenant leaves now. I am getting about 8 to 10 years of rental income with a sell with an extra 2-3 years because the investors are fighting over rentals. It will never be so good a sales time as now. I want to be fully out before I reach 70 or before my state goes insane. --216.23.xxx.xx

NJ cant ask criminal info (by MAT [PA]) Posted on: Jan 27, 2022 9:12 PM

It is mind boggling to me how they donít realize these types of laws lead to more expensive housing, rather than more affordable housing. Who ultimately pays for this? All the other renters. --100.34.x.xx

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