What HUDs Guidance Means to NAA Members
In an excerpt from the May issue of Units Magazine, NAA’s General Counsel John McDermott discusses how he would advise NAA members to address HUD’s guidance on resident screening policies for ex-offenders. He was interviewed by NAA’s Government Affairs Manager Nicole Upano.
Nicole Upano: How would you advise NAA’s members moving forward?
John McDermott: Engage your legal counsel and screening company partners to review and, if necessary, revise your resident screening policies. NAA and NMHC are issuing a white paper to help in this process, including some recommendations for how to set policies. It’s never a bad idea to check your work and see if there are any problem areas.
Provide updated fair housing training for on-site staff and refresh them on how to manage resident screening. Remind them, for example, not to speculate on what the results of a resident screening could be. Treat everyone in the same manner without any editorial commentary.
Nicole Upano: According to the guidance, owners must perform an individualized assessment of an applicant regardless of the offense in question or they risk facing a fair housing violation.
John McDermott: You may not be able to collect every scrap of information about an individual’s past, but your policy should reflect a willingness to consider relevant mitigating factors beyond what is contained in the person’s criminal record. HUD makes a good point in the guidance when it urges housing providers to consider a broad-based set of information in their policies. For example, convictions are more definitive of criminal behavior than arrests. Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors and even then not all are equal. Your screening policies should reflect these weighted values.
A vagrancy or public intoxication charge would not necessarily mean that someone might pose a threat in an apartment community. However, any conviction associated with violent behavior should be given the highest scrutiny …The NAA/NMHC white paper goes into more detail on these questions.
Look for the full Units article "HUD Issues Guidance about Resident Screening Policies for Ex-Offenders: Now What?" in the May issue. In the article, McDermott breaks down the guidance, highlights the main points and talks about related developments to consider. For detailed information on how to comply with the new guidance, NAA members should refer to the forthcoming NAA/NMHC white paper.