Michigan Legislators Considering “Renters Bill of Rights”
November 3, 2023
Michigan legislators have considered several bills that would increase the availability of affordable housing. House Bill 4878 is part of the “Renter’s Bill of Rights” package that is not progressing. Despite this delay, lawmakers recently heard testimony about a bill concerning criminal background checks for screening potential tenants.
House Bill 4878 would “prohibit landlords from requiring certain disclosures from certain applicants for rental units or taking adverse actions against certain applicants based on certain disclosures; to provide exceptions; to require the promulgation of rules; to provide remedies; to prescribe civil sanctions; and to provide for the powers and duties of certain state and local governmental officers and entities.”
Passing this bill would prevent landlords from performing criminal background checks. It would also prohibit questioning an applicant about their criminal history. However, House Bill 4878 provides exceptions for federal law requirements or laws related to sex offenders. In addition, it would require landlords to follow a complex set of procedures. Failure to comply would subject them to civil liability and prosecution.
Advocates voiced concerns about the difficulty that individuals with criminal records have in obtaining affordable housing. As such, this bill could help improve these individuals’ ability to obtain housing. However, opponents argue that landlords should know about tenants and potential tenants. They believe this knowledge should include whether applicants have a criminal record.
The Bill’s Necessity
Discrimination against individuals with criminal records during tenant screening has made it difficult for these people to obtain housing. This discrimination has led to many individuals struggling to achieve economic stability as well. The current law allows landlords and housing managers discretion when conducting tenant screening.
This ability often results in strict policies that screen out people with criminal records who would otherwise be good tenants. These policies also made it challenging for previously incarcerated individuals. The struggle to acquire housing significantly increased the likelihood of them becoming homeless. As such, recidivism grew more likely.
Supporters hope House Bill 4878 will reduce the difficulty people with a criminal record have in obtaining affordable housing. If it passes, it could help many Michigan residents since almost one in three have a criminal record.
Landlords and housing managers should prepare in case House Bill 4878 passes. One way to prepare is by reviewing and updating policies as needed, ensuring they avoid potential criminal and civil penalties. Working with a trustworthy background check company can also ensure compliance. The right partner will provide accurate reports compliant with federal, state, and local laws.
Background checks are made easy with JDP. Ask any questions you may have and learn more by contacting a sales rep today.