Housing Policy

Minneapolis Doesn't Want Landlords to Check Tenants' Criminal History, Credit Score, Past Evictions

The Minneapolis city council just made the rental business a lot riskier for property owners.

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Minneapolis, Minnesota, has passed a strict new law regulating the ability of landlords to screen potential tenants by researching their credit scores, criminal backgrounds, and eviction histories.

On Friday, the City Council unanimously approved an update to the city's Renter Protection Ordinance, requiring landlords to apply "inclusive screening criteria" when selecting applicants or else follow an onerous "individualized assessment" process.

"This ordinance provides a necessary protection for residents by ensuring they are not exploited with excessive move-in costs and have a fair opportunity to access housing," said City Council President Lisa Bender in a statement following the vote.

Under the inclusive screening process, property owners are forbidden from rejecting a potential tenant for having an insufficient credit score, or for having insufficient credit history.

Landlords are also forbidden from turning down potential tenants for any misdemeanor convictions older than three years and for most felony convictions older than seven years. The law does allow landlords to reject applicants that have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, or first-degree criminal sexual conduct, but only if those convictions were within the last 10 years.

The inclusive screening process also prevents landlords from rejecting tenants for evictions older than three years.

Rental property owners who use the individualized assessment process are allowed to reject applicants because of their criminal record, credit score, or eviction history. Before they do so, however, the landlords must first give tenants the opportunity to provide supplemental information about the nature and severity of potentially disqualifying past behavior. A landlord who still wants to reject someone after considering this supplemental information must provide a written reason for denying their application, a copy of which must be filed with the city.

The new Minneapolis law also forbids landlords from charging security deposits that exceed a single month's rent.

City landlords are predictably upset about the new requirements, saying that it gives them little room to decide who they rent their properties to while raising their costs of doing business.

One landlord told the Star Tribune that the new screening requirements would leave him "at a loss for how we're supposed to figure out who the good tenants are and who the bad tenants are." He said that he would likely raise rents at his properties or sell them in response to the new law.

Other landlords, in public comments submitted to the city council, said that the ordinance would raise insurance rates, and therefore rents, at rental properties. Still others complained that the individualized assessment procedures outlined in the law are unworkable and will leave landlords vulnerable to housing discrimination lawsuits.

The Minneapolis law also raises some constitutional red flags, says Ethan Blevins, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm.

"You have a fundamental right with respect to the right to exclude people from your property and you don't abandon that when you decide to become a landlord," says Blevins. "Arguably these things burden that right because you are unable to use relevant factors in deciding whether or not you want someone to occupy your property."

Blevins and the Pacific Legal Foundation are currently suing Seattle, Washington, over similar rental regulations that bar landlords from considering tenants' criminal history.

Proponents of such regulations have argued that a criminal record is a poor predictor of tenant behavior, and that credit scores don't accurately reflect people's history of paying rent. Using these metrics to screen tenants, they say, makes finding housing even harder for folks who are already struggling.

Given that landlords are the ones assuming the risk of renting to a tenant, however, it seems reasonable to leave it to them to decide how to screen their tenants.

Blevins argues that it's up to the government to tackle any disproportionate impact from landlords' use of sensible screening methods, possibly by making it easier to expunge one's criminal history, or by creating a certification program for rehabilitated ex-offenders.

Minneapolis' new tenant screening regulations go into effect in June 2020 for landlords who own 15 or more units. Those with fewer units have until December 2020 to comply with the new law.

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  1. They also expect landlords to remove their pants, bend over, touch their toes while their tenants…

  2. Suddenly, and for no good reason, apartments being converted into condominiums will be all the rage in Minneapolis . Everyone is mystified.

    1. and then they’ll wonder why rent is going up.

    2. Minneapolis city officials whining about lack of affordable rental housing and offering expensive, ineffective government solutions in 3…2…1…

  3. But remember… if your tenant ends up selling drugs, Minnesota will go after your house.

    1. To be fair, so will the feds. Double penetration.

      1. Spit roast or sandwitch?

        1. If the city also gets involved, airtight.


  4. Proponents of such regulations have argued that a criminal record is a poor predictor of tenant behavior…

    How about recidivism rates? 43% is near even odds.

    1. Gotta admit, this bit is golden.

      Blevins argues that it’s up to the government to tackle any disproportionate impact from landlords’ use of sensible screening methods, possibly by making it easier to expunge one’s criminal history, or by creating a certification program for rehabilitated ex-offenders.

      The irony here is that this action is the government tackling disproportionate impact. I’d agree that Blevins is probably right in terms of what would be a little ‘better’ though, although it seems pretty marginal to me.

    2. Whats the mean time to reoffend? It seems like an ex felon who’s kept his nose clean for 7 years is less likely to reoffend than one who just got out of prison

  5. I don’t know what the laws are in MN, but in a lot of places, it takes 3 months to evict someone– they essentially live in your place, rent free and can tear out all the fixtures and destroy the walls and floors in that time.

    There needs to be some sort of fantasy-world where every member of the city council is required to rent their home to a random stranger for 3 months a year. And they’re not allowed to know who the renter is. It’s chosen by blind lottery.

    1. There needs to be some sort of fantasy-world where every member of the city council is required to rent their home to a random stranger for 3 months a year.

      That’s outrageous! The pool of strangers should be the Minneapolis homeless, the rent should be “household chores”, and the time period should be the councilcreature’s term of office. To be fair, the councilcreature would share the house, but one family member would have to live elsewhere.

    2. It took a year in MD, and that was with the tenants having an incompetent attorney.

    3. I think is would only be fair to hold the city council members liable for damages caused to rental property by tenants who sensible precautions would have red-flagged. Personally liable.

    4. I had to evict someone from I house I rented in CA, and it took 4 months. After waiting for 2 months to get a trial, the judges simply ‘took it under advisement, and allowed the tenant to stay in the house another 6 weeks. They did $3K damage before they left.
      And this was in the 1980’s. I’m sure it’s gotten worse since.

  6. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess the majority of the city council don’t own rental property of the sort criminals and deadbeats would be renting. It’s always easy to be charitable with other people’s money, but there sure as hell isn’t any virtue in it.

  7. “Proponents of such regulations have argued that a criminal record is a poor predictor of tenant behavior, and that credit scores don’t accurately reflect people’s history of paying rent. Using these metrics to screen tenants, they say, makes finding housing even harder for folks who are already struggling.”

    Then proponents don’t have to use those metrics when they rent out their properties. Oh- but they don’t have rental properties of their own, and want to force this crap on others? What a bag of dicks.

  8. So I guess the part where landlords have complete immunity from any liability for criminal actions by poorly screened tenants, as long as they ‘follow procedures’ was omitted for space considerations? So no asset forfeitures for landlords when druggies start dealing again after a three year vacation.

  9. I predict a black market in information here. The landlord will find a good friend or a friend of a friend’s relative, in or out of state, who can pull the needed information about the prospective tenant(s). Pulled as a private person, or as a Brave Law Enforcement Super-Hero. USB key(s) dropped in a dead-drop if need be! Problem solved!

  10. Minneapolis Doesn’t Want Landlords to Check Tenants’ Criminal History, Credit Score, Past Evictions

    Sorry Christian, but this headline is fake news.

    If you actually read the ordinance (which you helpfully linked to), it says that it’s totally fine for landlords to check prospective tenants’ criminal records or credit histories. What the authors of the ordinance seem to want to discourage is for a criminal record or poor credit history to be an *automatic* reason to turn someone away. And I agree with them that that’s a shitty practice, to turn someone away without even listening to their side of the story. Maybe their poor credit score is because the applicant’s ex-spouse ruined his/her credit. Maybe the criminal record is for a bullshit crime like smoking marijuana. I would imagine that a fair-minded landlord would consider extenuating circumstances and not just apply arbitrary impersonal criteria.

    But I also don’t want it to be MANDATORY and COERCED like the ordinance will do. Landlords ought to have every right to be arbitrary and capricious with their property. It is *their* property after all, not the state’s.

    However it is not true that the ordinance would bar landlords from looking up an applicant’s criminal history. That is just a lie.

    1. Specifically, the ordinance gives the landlord two options:

      -Behind Door #1, they can completely exclude consideration of certain criminal behavior (and certain eviction or credit history)

      -Behind Door #2, they can consider the otherwise-forbidden criteria as part of an “individualized assessment,” sort of a due-processy thing where they weigh the crimes against mitigating circumstances and context and give a written decision to the prospective tenant, copy to the govt if requested.

      Door #2 is a fairly complicated and bureaucratic process, and of course it generates a record the city government can use to look for evidence of “discrimination.” That is, they have to give individualized consideration, but the bureaucrats will look through the records to see if they can pin some other violation on the landlord.

      1. I wonder – will the landlord be required to say why he prefers some other tenant? Does he have to give data about the successful tenant for the use of the unsuccessful tenant?

      2. And that is the problem – the SPIRIT of the idea, “don’t use arbitrary criteria to disqualify otherwise worthy candidates without letting them tell their side of the story” – is worthy. The problem is trying to codify that idea into a coercive structure along with all of the intendent side-effects.

        1. You should find a place where “here’s my idea how to control people IN SPIRIT is a good idea” and “radical individualist” aren’t contradictory and post there.

          1. Maybe you should actually read what I write.

            But I also don’t want it to be MANDATORY and COERCED like the ordinance will do.

            1. Maybe you should buy some rental properties and rent them to whoever you want to.

          2. Oh and here is the “radical individualist” part of this entire discussion.

            Put yourself in the shoes of a potential renter. Wouldn’t you want to be judged on your own merits? Suppose your credit score was a little low. Wouldn’t you want the opportunity to explain? Suppose you had a criminal history, say, of a minor infraction years ago. Wouldn’t you want the opportunity to explain your side of the story? Wouldn’t you want to be treated like an INDIVIDUAL rather than as a lifeless statistic?

            Now put yourself in the shoes of a landlord. You want to have quality tenants in your properties, and you want a way to try to weed out the lower quality ones so that you don’t have a headache on your hand with unpaid rent and trashed properties. There’s a huge number of ways to do that. Wouldn’t you want to have the freedom to choose whatever method works best for you, without overweening government mandates coercing you to choose tenants in only one way? Wouldn’t you want to be treated as the hard-working good-faith landlord that you are, instead of being trashed and caricatured as an EVIL SLUMLORD who needs to be controlled, by your own government? Wouldn’t you want to be treated as an INDIVIDUAL?

            Oh, but I guess that type of thinking is too nuanced around here. Better to just say “librulz bad lol go Team Red”.

            1. “Put yourself in the shoes of a potential renter. Wouldn’t you want to be judged on your own merits?”

              What a pile of horseshit.
              No. I’m renting a place to live, not getting married. Look up my numbers and if he government hadn’t already screwed the rental market, if you don’t like ’em I’ll rent from the next guy.

            2. Haha. So, play ball with the “overweening, coercive government” if you wanna be “treated as the hard working, good faith landlord that you are”?

              Yeah, that makes sense.

            3. The entire individualist idea is on the shoulders of the landlord. The renter assumes nearly zero risk while the landlord carries a risk burden from the structure, the renter, the municipality, probably a bank, and his own credit and cash lines. You are attempting to put them on equal footing where the risk is entirely one sided.

              1. But I’m a slum lord for wanting to protect my investment, I guess.

        2. As long as they aren’t hurting you, it’s none of your affair. Just having an opinion about how other people “ought to behave” is where all this coercive nanny state bullshit begins.

          The only “worthy ideas” are the ones you intend to implement yourself.

          People are free.

          1. As long as they aren’t hurting you, it’s none of your affair. Just having an opinion about how other people “ought to behave” is where all this coercive nanny state bullshit begins.

            That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

            I have every right to have an opinion on anything I damn well please. That is an expression of MY freedom of conscience. The only problem arises if I were to try to FORCE my opinion onto others. Which I reject, and said so clearly.

            Lord knows plenty of people around here have no compunction against expressing their opinion that Google and Facebook are run by a bunch of Maoist fascists, even if they don’t work for the companies or even use their products.

            It is sad that there seems to be a segment of people nowadays who, when confronted with a particular problem, not only reject government involvement to solve the problem (good), but go further and deny that there is a problem at all in the first place (bad). It is sad to see.

            I think it’s a problem that there are potential renters who are denied an opportunity to have a place to live based on arbitrary subjective criteria used by landlords as quick screening tools. I have actually heard stories about people who were rejected due to “low credit score”, but only because the person didn’t use credit, not because the person was financially untrustworthy. I don’t think that the solution is for the government to impose this ordinance-type of rules, but I’m also not going to bury my head in the sand and say that it’s not a problem.

            1. “I think it’s a problem that there are potential renters who are denied an opportunity to have a place to live based on arbitrary subjective criteria used by landlords as quick screening tools.”

              Goodie for you. Now get lost.

            2. Nonsense. Myself, and many of my blue collar friends lived a full decade of our young adult lives with nary a credit card between us. Never did any of us have a problem finding a place to rent. Even waitresses and people with largely unverifiable cash incomes had no problems. Folks like you need victims to facilitate your virtue signaling.

              “librulz bad lol go team red”.

              “EVERYTHING IS SO TERRIBLE AND UNFAIR!!!! lol go team blue”.

              FTFY.

    2. If anyone knows about judging anything based simply a headline it is baby Jeffrey.

    3. By the way baby jeffrey, if you actually read the fucking article you commented on, you will realize he said exactly what you said fucktard.

      “Before they do so, however, the landlords must first give tenants the opportunity to provide supplemental information about the nature and severity of potentially disqualifying past behavior. “

      1. I READ the fucking article, that is where I found Christian’s link to the ordinance, which I cited above.

        If you actually read the ordinance (which you helpfully linked to),

        You know, THAT part. You didn’t even bother to read my comment. Did YOU read the entire article? Do you even give a shit about this issue? Are you even interested in making a constructive addition to this conversation? No, no and no – all you want to do is virtue-signal to the other right-wing garbage posters around here your loyalty to the tribe. Go away and let serious people discuss this issue.

        1. Yes indeed, JesseAz is a non-serious poser of a policy expert or even a vague understander of policy; He’s just here to suck Trump’s balls. Just tell him “have a ball” should suffice, since he never listens anyway.

          1. Jesse has CDS – chemjeff derangement syndrome.

            This is not the first time that Christian has posted a misleading headline, and Jesse has (rightfully) criticized him for doing it.

            But when *I* criticize one of Christian’s misleading headlines, Jesse suddenly becomes Christian’s biggest defender, so as to make it clear to his buddies that he’s still in the “correct tribe”. It’s his version of #Resistance virtue-signaling.

            1. Haha. Well, if anyone knows about virtue signaling, it’s you Jeff.

              So many victims, so little time!

    4. “However it is not true that the ordinance would bar landlords from looking up an applicant’s criminal history. That is just a lie.”

      Ah, but the headline says Minneapolis doesn’t *want* landlords to check on criminal history.

      If you don’t want something, you can ban it altogether…or you can make it much more difficult, so that whatever it is you dislike, you’ll see less of it.

      And such indeed seems to be what the City Fathers (and mamas) of Minneapolis are thinking. If you can call it thinking, given the predictability of it blowing up in their face with “unintended” consequences.

      1. Sure, I suppose one could be completely cynical about it, assume total bad faith motives, and just declare that the Minneapolis city council wants landlords to rent to even violent felons no questions asked, and then entrap them in endless anti-discrimination litigation when the inevitable problems arise. Maybe the city councilcritters really are such horrible human beings. Even still, that is an argument against giving the councilcritters coercive power over the landlords, not an argument against the problem per se.

    5. “Sorry Christian, but this headline is fake news.
      If you actually read the ordinance (which you helpfully linked to), it says that it’s totally fine for landlords to check prospective tenants’ criminal records or credit histories. What the authors of the ordinance seem to want to discourage is for a criminal record or poor credit history to be an *automatic* reason to turn someone away.”

      Doesn’t all that spinning make you dizzy?
      no, they did not make it illegal, but the desire is certainly obvious to anyone not deranged.

    6. I don’t need to hear their side of the story. I’ve got 15 other prospective tenants who don’t need to explain anything.

      1. If that’s true, there’s a housing shortage, and usually _that_ is due to government policies.

  11. “The new Minneapolis law also forbids landlords from charging security deposits that exceed a single month’s rent.”

    This is an even bigger problem for landlords. When I was a landlord I quickly learned that having a security deposit equal to 2 months rent insured that tenants avoided damaging the place in the last month of a lease . A mere 1 month deposit gives you no leverage over tenants .

  12. Minneapolis Wants Criminals and Deadbeats to get free rent.
    There fixed that headline for you Reason.

  13. Not even a credit check? Wait until all those apartments get converted into Condominiums. Will they pass a law telling the banks they can’t check credit before giving mortgages to buy them?

    1. This being minneapolis, of course they will try it!

  14. Let me lead by saying i disagree with laws like this. One should be able to rent (or not rent) their property to whoever they want for whatever reason, so this is not to “support” the law but more to shed light on credit score not being terribly useful (at least in this instance)

    I worked for a fairly large national renter of single family homes. I forgot the exact model output but we found the impact of credit score on eviction likelihood was trivial.

    1. if anything my post is more in the vein of being against the proliferation of using credit scores to evaluate people for shit unrelated to typical ‘credit’.

      There was one more month a few years back we carried a card balance for more than a month because there was some big thing we had to charge. My credit score that month went from like 802 to 795 or something and it coincided with my property insurance renewal, which went up 30% because they used credit scores in the model. Obviously i’ve dropped that insurer.

      F credit scores.

      1. “Obviously, I’ve dropped that insurer”.

        Without big government to shame them and fine them? All by your lonesome? Damn!

        Haha.

    2. A high credit score tells us that you consistently pay your credit cards and other bills on time. I’d think that a low credit score due to not paying your bills says quite a lot about whether you will pay your rent. OTOH, a low credit score due to not having credit cards or other debt says nothing at all – but lazy fools may not dig deeper to learn this.

      In a free market, such lazy fools will eventually go bankrupt due to have their apartments going unrented after turning down prospective tenants that better businessmen accepted after some more research. So the real problem is that few local governments allow a free market in housing. This causes a housing shortage, which causes landlords to be inundated with applications, so they use quick but inaccurate algorithms to reduce the pile in front of them. With a housing shortage, someone is going to be homeless, and that’s the government’s fault, not the landlords’. All the quick but inaccurate checks change is who is homeless – and would it really be better if a law-abiding citizen with a good credit score was out on the street instead of an ex-con or a deadbeat?

  15. Give me a break. The Reason endorsed power grab of zoning laws, mixed with mandatory *affordable housing* to big SJW progressive governments will naturally result in eventual homeless/refugee/skin color/LGBTQ housing mandates and bans on credit checks or income verifications. This is just the beginning get used to it. Go fuck off Reason, this is what you wanted. I’m sure you’re SHOCKED, just shocked at progressive government’s mandate and ban marching direction.

  16. Seems Minnesota is becoming the next California. Get ready Texas…here come some Vikings.

    1. exactly..Florida, Texas, and it might keep em red in the near future.

  17. {looking downward, fingers to forehead}

    I foresee many more condos and single-family dwellings in Mineanoplace.

  18. The government (taxpayers) is subsidizing *affordable housing* with this new zoning law. This applies to rentals or ownership, while it bans single family home new construction. I’m sure the future condo purchasers will celebrate the shared party wall agreements or decs and regs with Keith Ellison or city/state governments.

  19. Many of these credit reports are inaccurate and full of errors. And it’s GREAT that instead of dealing with only a single govt agency, you have AT LEAST 3 credit bureaus and another data aggregator ( and maybe many more) – what a time suck.

    Sure you have recourse like the lady who spent near $250,000 in lawyers fees to do so but many do not have the resources or time.

  20. Instead of a rental agreement move to a leasing agreement. That way the lessee, tenant, is paying a monthly installment, not rent. And, maintenance and repairs are the responsibility of the lessee of the property, not the lessor or owner.

  21. How does this logic apply to universal background checks for firearm purchases?

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