NYC landlords could soon be denied criminal background checks for renters

A controversial law that bans landlords in the Big Apple from conducting criminal background checks on potential renters — even if they’ve been convicted of murder and other heinous crimes — is fast becoming law.

At least 30 of the city council’s 51 members have agreed to support the “Fair Housing Opportunities Act,” which is recorded to be presented to the council’s Civil Rights Committee for its first public hearing on December 8.

Unlike an earlier version of the bill, which died in another council committee late last year after outcry from landlord advocacy groups and others, the new bill, introduced in August by councilman Keith Powers (D-Manhattan), is winning because of the Assistance on driving from newly chosen pols. Co-sponsors include speaker Adrienne Adams.

And Mayor Eric Adams seems more than ready to enact it should the bill reach his desk.

A picture of Mayor Eric Adams.
When the bill reaches Mayor Eric Adam’s desk, he will ensure that the bill “has the maximum intended effect.”
Getty Images for Lincoln Center

“Nobody should be denied housing because they’ve been involved with the criminal justice system, plain and simple,” Adams spokesman Charles Lutvack told The Post.

“We will be working closely with our City Council partners to ensure this bill has the maximum intended impact.”

Supporters and opponents are preparing to make their voices heard at the council hearing, but some said the stakes were too high – and dangerous – to wait.

Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (R-Brooklyn) dropped one 85-second video on Twitter Wednesday night’s call for New Yorkers to contact their councilors and demand that they vote down the bill because “the safety of your families… is at stake.”

A picture of Keith Powers at a Fair Chance Housing rally.
Councilor Keith Powers introduced the bill in August and has received support from newly elected politicians.

“What’s on the menu this Thanksgiving?” she said in a post accompanying the video. “A bill that would ban landlords from conducting criminal background checks on potential renters.

“Murdered someone? beat up your girlfriend? deprived? stabbed your neighbor? No problem. Come and live among us! Tell the @NYCCouncil to vote NO!”

Powers later fired back at Vernikov on Twitter, saying Thanksgiving “should be a day of gratitude, not attack. We no longer believe in second chances?”

The bill will not affect the New York City Housing Authority complexes because they would still be required to conduct background checks on prospective renters as they comply with federal laws. It also does not apply to two-family houses or homeowners who rent single rooms.

An image of a rental sign in front of an apartment building.
The new law also prohibits landlords from conducting criminal background checks on people convicted of murder and other crimes.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Nor does the legislation prohibit landlords from checking the New York City sex offender registry to weed out perverts as potential renters. But the current wording of the bill leaves landlords vulnerable to renting to people who have committed sex crimes in other states because it doesn’t address out-of-state sex offender registries.

Vito Signorile, a spokesman for the Rent Stabilization Association, said many of the 25,000 landlords his advocacy group represents are furious that the ex-scammer-friendly proposal is back on the table after helping to secure the then-councillor’s proposal Stephen drafted earlier legislation of 2020 to defeat Levin (D-Brooklyn).

He also said members are getting an ear from existing tenants who don’t want to participate in sharing buildings with violent or career ex-cons.

Councilor Keith Powers joined other politicians to lead a rally on Fair Chance Housing.
Councilor Keith Powers joined other politicians to lead a rally on Fair Chance Housing.

“We are advocates of second chances when it comes to petty crimes like drug use, but hiring out to convicts for more serious crimes like … arson and murder [and repeat offenders] is a completely different matter,” said Signorile.

Powers said he was “very hands-on about that [city’s] Public safety challenges and needs[s] people feel safe everywhere”, but “it is also important that people who have been rehabilitated have the opportunity to stabilize their lives”,

He also said the bill could be tweaked to address concerns from opponents before a final version is voted on.

Andre Ward, an associate vice president of the Fortune Society, a nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated people reintegrate into society, said the bill was long overdue because “about half” of the people who get out of city jails these days end up homeless and in emergency shelters.

“We think this legislation is critical to supporting people after their release so they can live a life of contribution,” Ward said. NYC landlords could soon be denied criminal background checks for renters


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