Breaking Barriers: New Jersey's Fair Chance in Housing Act
Are you looking to navigate the tricky world of fair housing law as a landlord, real estate agent, or mortgage lender? Or trying to figure out your rights as a tenant or homebuyer? Look no further! This article gives you the lowdown on the new Fair Choice in Housing Act (FCHA). It's the legal eagle's guide to ensuring your rental, sale, or financing decisions aren't discriminatory. So, whether you're a property pro or a housing newcomer, this is the information you need to fly right.
Initial Application or Advertisement: Under the FCHA, housing providers are not allowed to ask about criminal history on initial applications or during interviews before making a housing offer. It's also unlawful for housing providers to publish advertisements that prohibit applicants with criminal records from applying for a unit. There are two exceptions, however: whether an applicant has ever been convicted of drug-related criminal activity for the manufacture or production of methamphetamine on the premises of federally assisted housing, or whether the applicant is subject to a lifetime registration requirement on a state sex offender registry.
Criminal History Information that can Never be Considered: Housing providers can never, either before or after the issuance of an offer, ask about certain types of criminal records or rely on them in rejecting an applicant. This includes arrests or charges that have not resulted in a criminal conviction, expunged convictions, convictions erased through executive pardon, vacated and nullified convictions, juvenile adjudications of delinquency and records that have been sealed.
Conditional Offer: If a housing provider chooses to evaluate criminal history, it may do so only after a conditional housing offer has been made. Before considering the applicant’s criminal history, the landlord must provide a Disclosure Statement informing the applicant that the eligibility criteria for the unit includes the applicant’s criminal history and appraising the applicant of their right to demonstrate mitigating factors, i.e., inaccuracies in their criminal record or evidence of rehabilitation.
Withdrawal Process: If a housing provider finds certain offenses in an applicant’s record, the housing provider may withdraw the conditional offer only if withdrawal is necessary to fulfill a substantial, legitimate, and non-discriminatory interest. In so doing, the housing provider must perform an individualized assessment based on various factors including the nature, severity, and relevance of the offense, the length of time since the offense, and the individualized circumstances of the applicant.
The FCHA is a game-changer for individuals with criminal records who are seeking housing in New Jersey. It's a sign that the state recognizes that everyone deserves a chance at a fresh start, regardless of their criminal history information once they have it. Housing providers can never rely on certain types of criminal records (such as arrests without convictions or expunged records
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