May 7, 2024

The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to revive a Fair Chance Housing motion concerning potential tenants’ criminal history. It would bar landlords from considering this history when deciding whether to approve or deny housing. The motion initially reached the council’s Housing Committee on March 9, 2022, and received considerable input from the community in the following months.

The Initial Introduction

Councilmembers Nithya Raman, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Mike Bonin initially introduced the motion. According to the Councilmembers, “Angelenos with past criminal histories often face insurmountable barriers to housing and are routinely screened out when applying to rent housing due to criminal background checks in private rental, nonprofit affordable housing and public housing units.”

As such, they pushed for the council to consider the original and current motion. The council agreed to reactivate the motion in an 11-0 vote, allowing it to move forward to committees for further consideration.

After receiving Community Impact Statements from affected neighborhoods, the council re-referred the motion to the Housing and Homelessness Committee. Unfortunately, the motion expired under the council’s policy on March 9, 2023. It never received further motion after the council’s renewed referral.

Continued Interest

Despite this stall, interest in the Fair Chance Housing Act concept never faded. As such, the motion has received a second revival for another chance at approval. The new motion aims to eliminate barriers those with past criminal histories often face. It states that “formerly incarcerated individuals are ten to thirteen times more likely to experience homelessness than those without.” As such, it would mitigate this issue by preventing landlords from running criminal background checks when evaluating rental applications for housing.

According to the motion, the City Attorney must consult the Housing Department to draft a Fair Chance Housing ordinance. They must complete this draft within 45 days. The ordinance must expressly prohibit “landlords from, at any time or by any means, whether direct or indirect, inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history, requiring an applicant to disclose criminal history, requiring an applicant to authorize the release of criminal history or, if such information is received, using or considering that criminal history information, or taking adverse action based in whole or in part on an applicant’s criminal history.”

According to the motion, they would model the ordinance on the Fair Chance Housing Ordinances in effect in other cities. Currently, the inspiration for the draft includes Oakland and Berkeley’s ordinances. As such, Los Angeles may create a private right of action for prospective renters and organizations working on their behalf. It would also provide for recovering attorney’s fees and implementing penalties to encourage adherence to the ordinance’s requirements.


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