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Report: Criminal Background Policies Used as a Cover for Discrimination

Posted on 25. Sep, 2015 by

The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC) released a new investigation revealing that New Orleans area housing providers treated prospective renters with criminal backgrounds differently based on the applicants’ race. The study, LOCKED OUT: Criminal Background Checks as a Tool for Discrimination, analyzes a testing investigation of 50 area housing providers, in which mystery shoppers posing as prospective renters inquired about rental availability and the apartment’s criminal background policy.  Of the 50 site-visit tests conducted, African American testers experienced discrimination 50% of the time.

Testing revealed that agents often provided inconsistent information about background policies, and that white prospective tenants were much more likely to be quoted more lenient policies.  Further, policies that were either discretionary—that evaluated prospective tenants on a “case by case” basis—or ambiguous favored white prospective tenants over African Americans 55% of the time.

Discrimination against African American testers took many forms:

  • Unequal application of discretionary policies
  • Preferential treatment and exceptions to standing policies for white tenants
  • Waiving criminal background check fees for white tenants
  • Waiving the criminal background check altogether for white tenants

Read the full report here.


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