Virginia AG, Tenant Advocates, Apartment Assn. Create Model Tenant Screening Policy

In April 2020, at the end of both National Fair Housing Month and Second Chance Month, Virginia Attorney General Herring (D) and “partners in the housing industry” launched “a new tool that will reduce housing discrimination and increase housing stability and options for Virginians with previous nonviolent convictions.”  The initiative was announced in a press release by General Herring on April 30, 2021.  Part of the announcement includes a Model Policy for Tenant Screening will guide property owners and managers on

“three steps that balance the goals of public safety and fair housing choice.

  • “The policy instructs providers to first consider whether an applicant’s income and credit qualifies them for a rental.
  • “If an applicant is otherwise qualified, a housing provider should then conduct a tailored background screening to determine whether someone’s background makes them a good rental candidate, or whether more examination and information is needed. The model policy lists particular categories of criminal convictions that housing providers may want to collect and analyze
  • “Finally, even if information in the background screening raises an issue, the housing provider should allow an applicant to provide additional evidence or information in order to perform an individualized assessment about an applicants’ suitability to rent a property.”

In the press release, Sara Pratt, a civil rights attorney at Relman Colfax PLLC, who authored the model policy, said that the Model Policy “considers landlord concerns about risk while increasing access to housing for people who have a history of involvement with the criminal justice system. The model policy is an important step forward to help Virginia landlords comply with the Fair Housing Act.”

General Herring’s release notes the support for the Model Policy from Patrick McCloud, CEO, Virginia Apartment and Management Association; and Andy Hall, Chief Operating Officer, Community Housing Partners (CHP) which owns and manages 78 apartment communities in Virginia.