Housing laws in Washington, DC could serve as a blueprint for future policy discussions for Illinois landlords and property managers.

According to Caroline Elmendorf, senior compliance officer for Bozzuto Management Co. of Greenbelt, Md., local regulations for tenant screening were enacted in February of last year, in Washington DC.  The regulation puts limits on what housing providers may consider when evaluating potential renters.  Lookback periods and the scope of crimes they may consider are part of those limits. She said that using laws like the one in DC provide a way to follow guidance from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regarding disparate impact housing theory.

According to Elmendorf, in a preview of a recent video produced by the Illinois REALTORS®, contrary to popular opinion, landlords and/or property managers are liable for the accuracy or relevance of  criminal background research information, not third-party companies. She advises landlords to require criminal background research be done in specific ways, yielding specific results. Since a person arrested for urinating in public could be placed on a sex offender list in one state but not in another, for example, her company does not automatically reject tenants based on their appearance on the sex offenders list, and focuses on convictions for violent felonies not arrest records.

Elmendorf spoke Wednesday morning during the Housing Opportunity Working Group Forum during the Illinois REALTORS® Fall Business Meetings at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard. She was joined by Courtney Jones, president of Dearborn Realtists® and Benjamin Ruddell, director of criminal justice policy for the ACLU Illinois. Zeke Morris, chair of the Housing Opportunity Working Group, moderated the discussion.