California Bill to Restrict Criminal Background Checks Halted



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SACRAMENTO - A California bill that would have extended housing protections to ex-offenders has been held over for consideration in 2016 after the sponsor, Assemblyman Reggie Sawyer-Jones (D), requested the Appropriations Committee cancel its scheduled hearing. The bill will receive no further action during the 2015 session.

Assembly Bill 396 has undergone several amendments since its introduction earlier this year. In its most recent form, the bill provides that it is a Fair Housing violation for property owners to inquire about a potential tenant’s criminal record during the initial application phase, unless otherwise required by state or federal law. Property owners must disclose their screening policies relevant to criminal background to potential tenants, and the owners may request a criminal background check after the successful completion of the initial application phase.

Additionally, it releases property owners from liability, whether they accept or deny a potential tenant with a criminal record, so long as they have followed the notification procedures provided in the bill. The amendments also removed a provision that gave applicants a 14-day period to provide evidence of inaccuracies in their criminal record or evidence of rehabilitation, forcing the owner to hold the unit vacant for that time.

According the National Employment Law Project, more than 100 cities and counties have adopted “ban the box” provisions that prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until after the initial application process. However, as yet, no jurisdictions have passed legislation that would replicate these provisions for rental housing. Members of the rental housing industry continue to oppose the bill.

Sources: National Apartment Association, California General Assembly, National Employment Labor Project