How far can REALTORS® go with criminal background checks?

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Tyler Craddock of the National Association of Residential Property Managers warned REALTOR® attendees at last week’s NAR Property Management Forum that if their leasing policies disallow tenants who have committed a felony, it could have a “disparate impact” on a certain group of people — which is a violation of fair housing law. Unfortunately, he said, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines on this issue are vague.

Property managers cannot consider arrest records when considering tenant applications, according to HUD, and only convictions related to threats to property or other tenants are relevant. “You have to look at the nature of the crime, the severity, the age of the [prospective tenant] at the time of the crime, and how much time has passed since conviction,” NAR’s Megan Booth said. She suggested property managers consider only the last seven years of a prospective tenant’s criminal history.

Look at work history and check credit on prospective tenants before conducting a criminal background check, said Booth. If the credit history and work history do not meet the owner/property management company’s standards, then a criminal background check may not need to be done.

When denying prospective tenants based on their criminal background, said Booth, property managers should be honest about that and give tenants an opportunity to explain their situation.

April is Fair Housing Month

April 2012 marks the 44th anniversary of the 1968 landmark Fair Housing Act. Each year REALTORS® recognize the significance of this event and reconfirm our commitment to upholding fair housing law as well as our commitment to offering equal professional service to all in their search for real property. Find fair housing resources at www.illinoisrealtor.org/fairhousing.

REALTOR® Fair Housing Declaration

REALTORS® agree to:

  • Provide equal professional service without regard to the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin or sexual orientation of any prospective client, customer, or of the residents of any community.
  • Keep informed about fair housing law and practices, improving my clients’ and customers’ opportunities and my business.
  • Develop advertising that indicates that everyone is welcome and no one is excluded;, expanding my client’s and customer’s opportunities to see, buy, or lease property.
  • Inform my clients and customers about their rights and responsibilities under the fair housing laws by providing brochures and other information.
  • Document my efforts to provide professional service, which will assist me in becoming a more responsive and successful REALTOR®.
  • Refuse to tolerate non-compliance.
  • Learn about those who are different from me, and celebrate those differences.
  • Take a positive approach to fair housing practices and aspire to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law.
  • Develop and implement fair housing practices for my firm to carry out the spirit of this declaration.

Fair housing and orders of protection

April is Fair Housing Month and with the spotlight on fair housing laws it is important that Illinois residents be aware of the state’s newest protected class – order of protection status.

On January 1, 2010, Illinois added “order of protection status” as a new protected class under the Illinois Human Rights Act. With this change, housing can’t be denied to a person based on the fact that the person is covered by an order of protection granted by a court in Illinois or a court from any other state.

It’s important to note that this protection is for the person protected by the order of protection, not the perpetrator.

Since real estate transactions include leases, orders of protection can’t be used as the basis for not leasing to the protected party. The protected class also applies to employment situations.

Learn more about federal fair housing laws that prohibit discrimination based on the race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or the familial status of those seeking housing.

The Illinois Human Rights Act further protects citizens from prejudice by identifying protected classes, including the two newest: sexual orientation and order of protection status.

Illinois consumers should also check for any local ordinances that might include additional protected classes in their area.

IAR Hosts First Multicultural Summit

Photo left to right: IAR Governmental Affairs Director Greg St. Aubin, City Clerk of Chicago Miguel del Valle, Dan Carrillo of The Gonzales Group, and IAR Housing Policy Advisor Sharon Gorrell

On April 8th, IAR hosted the first in an annual series of Multicultural Summits for REALTORS® at the Doubletree Hotel in Oak Brook. The focus of this year’s summit “Understanding the Latino Market,” held during Fair Housing Month, was designed to help REALTORS® gain a better understanding of working with future Latino homebuyers and sellers.

Using demographic information and testimonials from Latino REALTORS® and other keynote speakers, the goal of the one-day event was to assist REALTORS® advance their knowledge of working with Latino clients and gain a further understanding of barriers to homeownership for this demographic population base. Consider these facts:

  • The Latino population in Illinois is close to two million representing about 15% of the population.
  • Chicago has the fourth largest Latino population in the United States.
  • Latinos will make up 29% of the population in the U.S. in 2050.
  • They are homebuyers of today and tomorrow with the median age of Latinos at age 25.

Guest speakers included Dan Carrillo, Managing Partner of The Gonzales Group, a leading business consulting and research firm in the field of multicultural markets for real estate and the financial services community. City Clerk of Chicago Miguel del Valle was the keynote luncheon speaker. Del Valle has served as City Clerk of Chicago since 2006. Prior to that he served for 20 years as a Illinois state senator. He founded and chaired the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus and founded the Illinois Association of Hispanic State Employees.

An experienced REALTOR® panel brought insight to working with Latino clients. Panel members included: Gaspar Flores, broker/owner of Su Familia Real Estate in Chicago; Loretta Alonzo, broker/owner of Century 21 Alonzo and Associates in LaGrange Park; Juan Del Real, broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Del Real in Cicero; Debbie Maue, broker/associate with Jameson Real Estate in Chicago; and Alex Chaparro, moderator, Chairman of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

Here are some takeaway suggestions from the Summit.

  • The U.S. is becoming an internationally culturally diverse population more so each day. How is your business catering to the changing demographics of our population base?

“There is a growing demographic of Latinos that needs to be served. Tomorrow it may be a different demographic. REALTORS® understand the need to meet the needs of this changing demographic as we are the ones who can bring it home,” Alex Chaparro, Chairman, National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

  • Latinos will continue to acquire wealth through property. Many do not believe it is possible to own a home. You need to make them aware of programs designed to assist them. Many first-time buyers may lack the confidence to directly approach a real estate professional.
  • Homebuying decisions are influenced by Latino cultural nuances where decisions are familial and extend beyond husband and wife. Learn to understand the culture—culture is a mental structure that shapes how we view the world. Culture is the basic cause of a person’s wants and behavior. If you are trying to establish a relationship with the Latino community and do not understand the culture, you are a step behind.

Read more suggestions at www.illinoisrealtor.org/multiculturalsummit.