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Warnings Issued to 59 New Jersey Landlords Allegedly Discriminating Against Applicants with Criminal Histories

Friday, notices were sent to landlords in over 40 New Jersey towns and 16 counties for allegedly discriminating against potential tenants.

Before making a conditional offer, it is prohibited and discriminatory to inquire about a candidate’s criminal past on an application or during an interview.

Attorney General Matthew Platkin and the office’s Division on Civil Rights stated that 59 landlords have been cautioned for allegedly breaking the Fair Chance in Housing Act, which entered into force in 2021 after being approved by Governor Phil Murphy.

Six months prior to Friday’s warnings, thirty landlords were similarly highlighted.

“As the nation’s first state statute of its type, the Fair Chance in Housing Act provides significant protections against housing discrimination. It assures that those with criminal records have an equal opportunity to access safe, affordable housing in our state, according to Sundeep Iyer, director of the Civil Rights division.

Although landlords can conduct a background check after an offer has been made, they must explain in writing why an application has been denied.

The Civil Rights division sent notices of violation to 59 landlords, accusing them of maintaining questions about criminal history on their applications after the landmark law went into effect in January 2022, or of stating explicitly in their advertisements that applicants with criminal histories would be rejected.

The Fair Chance in Housing Act was enacted as part of a larger “ban the box” movement, which seeks to eliminate barriers to housing, jobs, and services for individuals who have paid their due to society.

Since 2014, when Gov. Chris Christie signed the “Opportunity to Compete Act,” New Jersey has placed similar limits on job applications.

Friday’s citations include civil penalties of up to $1,000 for a first infraction, up to $5,000 for a second offence, and up to $10,000 for subsequent offences.

Officials reported that landlords in Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Sussex, and Union counties were involved.

The Attorney General’s Office did not provide the names of the landlords.

Eric Dobson, deputy director of the Fair Share Housing Center, stated after the measure was signed by the governor that it will assist “dismantle the effects of a criminal justice system beset by systematic racism.”

Without access to housing, recidivism, homelessness, and relapse are possible, according to law proponents. In a state where 30% of inmates return to jail within three years of their release and in a country where Black people are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people, it can be especially painful.

Authorities announced on Friday that the state had handled difficulties with 62 landlords since the law went into effect a year ago.

State regulators filed cease-and-desist letters to seven landlords whose advertisements included phrases such as “Background check” in March of last year. NO criminal history (without exception)”

Friday, Platkin stated that New Jersey and the Murphy administration were “dedicated to ensuring that those with criminal histories can return to their communities with dignity and the resources necessary to lead productive lives.”

Platkin’s office stated that landlords signed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the Civil Rights division in regard to New Jersey notices of violation that have been settled to date.

The compliance stipulates that they will adhere to the Fair Chance in Housing Act in the future, outline in writing how they will do so, and provide staff training on said written policy.

An undisclosed payment in lieu of a civil penalty was made to the Civil Rights division as well.

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Parvesh
Parvesh
Parvesh is the Content Writer for New Jersey Local News. Here at New Jersey Local News, she covers local news of New Jersey state. Moreover, Parvesh likes to dance and listen to music. She also finds time in her hectic schedule to relax and spend time with loved ones.
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