October 23, 2015

Black Hawk landlords fight to keep criminal history box on rental applications

10-23-15 Iowa:

WATERLOO, Iowa — A property owner has the right to perform a background check on anyone they feel the need to, but the criminal history box on an application lets a renter know what kind of record a tenant has immediately.

Waterloo’s Human Rights Commission wants to ban the box to allow renters a chance to have a conversation with a landlord without having their criminal record immediately out in the open.

A group representing landlords in Black Hawk County said this change could hurt renters who aren’t a part of the association, and don’t now all of the rules.

“They may have just bought a couple extra properties for retirement income or they may have inherited it but they don’t know all the rules and they don’t know that they’re doing wrong,” Black Hawk Landlords President Mark Pregler said. “Especially older and inexperienced people, if its not on the application, they’re not going to ask a tenant about it.”

Pregler said the ban won’t affect the tenants who do due diligence, but he wants to look out for those who don’t know much about the topic, no matter if they are in the association, or not.

“If they don’t do a background check or forget to, you may inadvertently put a pedophile, a sex offender, a drug person, someone convicted of repeated issues of violence, next to someone you love, and nobody wants that,” Pregler said.

Former Director of UNI’s Multicultural Education Department Dr. Michael D. Blackwell said ban the box hinders renters who want to change their life for the better.

“It means that a person who is coming into the community, re-entering the community, and had a criminal record is coming in at a marked disadvantage, Blackwell said. “The person is at a disadvantaged as far as employment concern but they’re also equally at a disadvantage as far as getting housing.”

He said the tenant should be able to talk with a landlord first, and if that landlord chooses to perform a background check he or she can do so.

“The idea is that when you go in for an application if the box is removed you don’t signal to the employer or the landlord that you have a record,” Blackwell said. “So you’re treated as a human, because most people with criminal records aren’t treated humanely. They paid the price, they’ve been punished, and now they’re wanting to return and become productive citizens.”

The Waterloo City Council will hold a work session regarding the issue Monday, and vote on whether to ban the question on November 2. ..Source.. by Brea Love

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