NYC Landlord Lobby Murder Criminal Background Check Bills

RSA President Joseph Strasburg and Councilmember Stephen Levin (Getty)

RSA’s Joseph Strasburg and Councilmember Stephen Levin (Getty)

A bill that could prevent homeowners from running for office criminal background check about prospective tenants who died during the last City Council session of the year following an 11-hour protest effort by a group of landlords.

Tenant advocates say the Rent Stabilization Association’s protest campaign, in which owners and renters urge lawmakers to reject the measure, is based on scare tactics and
misinterpretation of the bill’s likely impact.

After report yesterday that the law had lost too much support to pass, RSA president Joseph Strasburg went to City Hall on Wednesday to make sure the measure had not yet taken effect.

“I’ve seen games played in the past, where in the last minute you think it’s over and they put it in,” Strasburg said. “But it is clear that a large number of members will oppose the law if it is voted on.”

Strasburg said the bill would create liability for owners and a worry for tenants. He said if a landlord sublet to someone with a criminal record in the building, the landlord could be vulnerable to lawsuits by tenants.

“They sued the owner because [the owner’s] insurance,” said Strasburg.

Tenants, he said, want to know if their neighbor has worked all the time. He uses the hypothesis of a convicted hate criminal who moves into a small building occupied by members of the target community.

Criminal background checks are “just one tool” to prevent such a situation, says Strasburg. But homeowners use them arbitrarily, he said.

“No owner is going to absolutely say ‘no’ just because someone commits a crime, because that person could have been in jail for marijuana before it became legal,” Strasburg said.

Fortune Society, a nonprofit dedicated to helping incarcerated New Yorkers find housing, lobbied for the bill’s passage. It’s called discrimination by property owners against ex-criminals that are rampant.

Fortune Society CEO JoAnne Page said: “We see discrimination as pervasive, regardless of how long ago it happened, regardless of the person’s level of recovery, regardless of the person’s level of recovery. whether a person is a good tenant”.

In one Survey 2007 of more than 600 landlords, two-thirds said they would not accept applicants from criminal backgrounds.

That is one reason why people who have been incarcerated before are more likely to become homeless, thus making them more likely to re-offend. That cycle disproportionate influence people of color, who are more likely to be arrested and convicted in the first place.

But those with a criminal record are not necessarily re-offenders.

Fortune Association pointed out a 2006 research paper found six to seven years after the last arrest of previous offenders, their risk of committing a new crime is close to that of an undocumented person.

“The correlation between incarceration and danger is not very realistic,” says Page, noting that mass incarceration holding many people should not be the case.

She says age is a much better predictor.

“People tend to get out of crime around age 30,” says Page. “If you really want to be in charge of community safety, you can allocate rental capacity by age.”

CEO of The Fortune Society JoAnne Page (Getty)

CEO of The Fortune Society JoAnne Page (Getty)

The Legal Aid Association, a campaigner for the bill, said the RSA presented the law in “very clear terms.” Legal Aid noted that a segment by CBS implied that the bill was “delivered late at night”.

In fact, the bill, titled the Equal Opportunity for Housing Act, was introduced by Council member Stephen Levin in August 2020. However, it was not clear until recently that it would be called for repealing. votes this month, which is not happening just because it lacks support to pass.

Strasburg called Levin’s attempt to pass the bill an 11-hour effort by a tenured politician. Levin, along with two-thirds of the Council, will leave office at the end of the year.

Levin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The bill could return in 2022, where it could get backing from a new set of members. Both the Legal Aid Association and the Fortune Association have said they will continue to lobby for it.

The landlord did not abbreviate it either.

“Nothing is dead,” Strasburg said. NYC Landlord Lobby Murder Criminal Background Check Bills

Dais Johnston

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