March 20, 2024

The Montgomery County Council in Maryland recently introduced a new ban-the-box bill. It would strengthen the county’s existing ban-the-box requirements for landlords. For example, it would improve the established protections for renters. To do so would reinforce the requirement to disclose criminal and credit histories before landlords make a preliminary decision.

Council member Laurie-Anne Sayles sponsored the bill, with Council Members Evan Glass and Sidney Katz cosponsoring it. They introduced the bill to amend the county’s ban-the-box legislation. The legislation to receive the changes is the Housing Justice Act, which legislators passed in 2021. This Act prohibits housing providers from performing a criminal background check or credit history check before making a conditional offer. 

They explained that the amendments would clarify what landlords can and cannot do during the application process. According to Council Member Glass, “This comes from a very good place of wanting people to get housed.” Glass further emphasized how the ban-the-box amendments would add to applicants’ rights during the process.

The amended ban-the-box law would restrict what records landlords may consider when deciding whether to offer housing after performing background checks. Under the Act, landlords cannot consider arrest records that did not lead to convictions. Other information landlords cannot use include nonviolent crimes. Examples include marijuana possession, misdemeanor theft, indecent exposure, and other low-level offenses.

However, the ban-the-box law explicitly allows landlords to inquire about arrests or convictions for sex offenses. The law also allows them to deny housing based on such records or for appearing on sex offender registries. If a housing provider chooses to rescind a conditional offer based on an applicant’s arrest or conviction record, they must first:

  1. Provide the applicant with a copy of the criminal record report;
  2. Notify the applicant of the intent and the specific items that caused the intent, and
  3. Provide the applicant seven days to inform the housing provider of potential inaccuracies in the item or items.

Under the legislation under consideration, housing providers must display information about the Housing Justice Act on their websites and in rental offices. Though the Housing Justice Act requires landlords to provide disclosures, this bill “would specifically require a housing provider to include a statement or addendum with every rental application that outlines the process and use of criminal arrest, convictions, and credit screenings in a rental housing decision.” Finally, the ban-the-box amendments would change reporting and tracking to ensure the requirements meet the Act’s goals.

Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.