Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, both members of the progressive group known as the “Squad,” have introduced a new bill aimed at limiting consumer reporting agencies from including criminal history information in tenant screening reports.
Landlords may face restrictions on conducting criminal background checks on potential tenants as progressives advocate for changes in tenant screening practices
The proposed legislation goes further by suggesting the removal of criminal convictions older than seven years from consumer reports. It also seeks to establish a new “national standard” for criminal information that is not currently included in these reports. While the bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, it serves as a signal of the progressive agenda leading up to the 2024 election cycle.
This development comes amid concerns over rising crime rates in cities across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Democratic officials in several cities have faced criticism for being perceived as lenient on offenders. As an example, Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area had already enacted a law in 2022 that prohibits landlords from considering criminal backgrounds when screening prospective renters. The measure also prevents landlords from discouraging ex-felons from applying.
Republicans have voiced opposition to the bill, asserting that landlords have the right to know the criminal history of potential tenants
They argue that such legislation would be counterproductive and hinder efforts to provide safe and affordable housing. California Representative Mike Garcia expressed concerns about the expansion of housing policies that could undermine the rights of property owners. Representative Jim Banks of Indiana drew parallels between the bill and the movement to defund law enforcement, questioning the left’s priorities regarding criminals versus law-abiding citizens.
In support of the bill, Tlaib emphasized the importance of restorative justice and dismantling cycles of mass incarceration and housing discrimination. Pressley, a prison reform advocate, called for stronger measures to address the “prison-to-homelessness pipeline” and break the cycle of mass incarceration, stating that safe, stable, and affordable housing is a fundamental right, even for individuals with a criminal record.