Progressives want to stop landlords from using criminal background checks to screen renters

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Progressives are pushing to stop landlords from being able to conduct criminal background checks on prospective tenants before leasing their property.

A new bill introduced by “Squad” members Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., would stop consumer reporting agencies from including criminal history information on reports that are now used to screen potential renters.

It also calls for stripping consumer reports of criminal convictions that are more than seven years old, and creates a new “national standard” for criminal information not included in such reports, among other provisions.

The legislation is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, but it’s a signal of where progressives are eyeing reforms as the 2024 election cycle heats up. It comes as cities across America are still dealing with a rise in crime that peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as Democratic officials in many of those cities field criticism over being too soft on offenders.

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Progressive Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib are teaming up on a new bill aimed at curbing landlords’ access to potential tenants’ criminal histories (Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images | Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Take Back the Court Action Fund)

A California county in the San Francisco Bay Area passed a law last year prohibiting landlords from weighing criminal background checks for prospective renters. It was part of a tenant protections package before the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in December 2022.

The local measure also banned landlords from actively discouraging ex-felons to apply.

Republicans this week argued that landlords have a right to know the criminal background of prospective tenants.

“We all want safe, affordable housing for our constituents. But if the goal is to increase safe and affordable housing options, this isn’t the way to go about doing it,” California GOP Rep. Mike Garcia told Fox News Digital on Monday.

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Mike Garcia

Rep. Mike Garcia told Fox News Digital that the bill was not the way to solve a housing crisis. (Getty Images)

“This bill would be an unnecessary and unproductive expansion of bad housing policy. Earlier this year, landlords in LA went on a hunger strike to protest the city’s backwards approach to the issue. Property owners have a right to know who is renting their assets, and California’s housing challenge will only get worse if my colleagues across the aisle continue to ignore that fact.”

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., blasted the bill and compared it to the fringe left’s calls to defund law enforcement. “This bill makes as much sense as defunding the police. Why does the Left prioritize criminals over law-abiding citizens?” Banks said to Fox News Digital on Monday.

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Tlaib said in a press release for the bill, “We must prioritize restorative justice, lead with compassion, and recognize the human dignity of our neighbors as we work to dismantle the cycles of mass incarceration and housing discrimination.”

San Francisco apartment building

An apartment building advertises available rentals on June 9, 2023, in San Francisco. A Bay Area-county is no longer allowing landlords to consider criminal background checks in tenant applications. (Getty Images)

“This legislation will end the systemic barriers to stable housing returning citizens face every day as they begin to rebuild their lives in our communities,” she said.

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Pressley, an advocate for prison reform, called for stronger efforts to ban the “prison-to-homelessness pipeline” to end the cycle of mass incarceration in the U.S.

“Safe, stable and affordable housing is a fundamental human right, including for the millions of people with a record,” Pressley said.

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