In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed Megan’s Law into effect following the rape and murder of a seven-year old girl, Megan Kanka. The public demand to act upon sexual predators and their involvement in child abuse and murder lead to new regulations and laws. Megan’s Law was designed to inform the public of sex offenders and also worked with the Jacob Wetterling Act to require sex offenders to register on the official Sex Offender Registry. As a landlord, it is important to adhere to Megan’s Law to ensure the right tenants are permitted housing.
Background Checks and Tenant Screening
Part of determining the best applicants to stay in your housing comes down to following a proper tenant screening process. Rental applicants with sexual assaults are difficult to provide housing to because of their background. The FBI is responsible for compiling and managing the national sex offender registry.
California does limit how landlords can used the information in the sex offender database when they are screening tenants. California does require landlords to disclose this information in the database if there is a lease or rent agreement signed. Other tenants will be notified of the consultation into Megan’s Law. Before 2016, it was uncommon for landlords to know how to handle Megan’s Law, and how it should be used when screening tenants. Some people felt it was bad to consult the database, but just as many felt it was not a good idea to avoid the registry altogether.
In 2016, HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) decided they would try to assist landlords with Megan’s Law. A guidance memo was released and advised landlords to never use arrest history as the only deciding factor to reject an application. HUD advises property owners to read through the facts of the case to help them gain an understanding about the individual, and what happened.
Landlords need to seek out applicants that are not a threat to their current tenants, employees, and guests. To determine if a person is deemed worthy, analyze the case and determined how long ago the arrest was, the outcome, and their history over the past few years or possibly decades since the crime. For example, it would be far easier to reject an applicant with a recent violent rape crime compared to a rape crime 20 or 30 years ago. Discretion is needed when reviewing these applications, and making sure everyone is given a fair chance to obtain housing.
Refusing to Rent
If an individual is on the registry, and the landlord purposefully rejects the application due to the listing, the individual can compliance to Fair Housing to complain about discriminatin. A complaint with merit can end up with a lawsuit and a settlement, but other cases could be tossed out. Landlords do not want to deal with court matters related to fair housing, which is why many of them will choose to settle. Since this part of the law becomes quite complicated, it is important to hire a good attorney with a background in tenant-landlord issues. Renting to a registered sex offender can be challenging, so it’s best to leave it to a team of legal experts like Keyrenter property management in Sacramento, CA. Our property management company adheres to the law, and we have years of experience handling situations related to sex offenders and housing.