Seattle to Ban Landlords From Using Criminal Histories

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Seattle landlords would be almost completely prohibited from screening prospective tenants based on their criminal histories, under a proposed ordinance approved by a City Council committee, the Seattle Times reports. The only people who could be denied housing based on their criminal histories would be those listed on sex-offender registries because of adult convictions. The proposed ordinance cleared the civil-rights committee by a 6-0 vote, which means the full nine-member council will almost certainly approve it.

Some landlords say they should be allowed to consider the criminal histories of prospective renters to protect their property and their tenants. Landlord Sara Weaver said the ordinance’s backers want to “put the safety and security of tenants at risk and set property owners up for potential damage.” Proponents of the legislation say people who already have served their time shouldn’t be again punished by landlords. They say people denied by landlords based on their criminal histories can end up homeless and are more likely to reoffend than people with housing. Backers point to studies of supportive-housing programs in which criminal records were not shown to be predictive of problem tenancies. “Please help the homeless people. They have rights, too. They’re human beings just like we all are,” said Mellie Kaufman of the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project.

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