According to The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, nearly a third of working-age adults have criminal records, which is around the same number of people who have four-year college degrees. While tracking the exact number of people who have a record is nearly impossible, this figure shows that a significant number of people have had some dealings with the criminal justice system. It is important to note that having a criminal record doesn't mean that a person was convicted of the offense they were arrested for; they may not have even been charged. However, whether or not a person was ultimately convicted, just having a criminal record can make finding things like employment and housing more difficult.
Seattle is taking steps to help remedy at least part of the problem. With the exception of one absent member who didn't vote, in August of 2017, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that “will mostly prohibit landlords from screening tenants based on their criminal records.” The ordinance bars landlords from “excluding people with records in advertisements.” It also will bar them from asking prospective tenants about criminal records and prohibit landlords from denying tenants because they happen to have a record. While those with adult convictions who have to register as sex-offenders can still be denied, a landlord will “need to demonstrate a legitimate business reason” for rejecting the applicant.
There are exceptions to the new ordinance, however. A landlord who is renting out part of his or her house and will be “sharing a kitchen or bathroom with a tenant will be exempt.” In addition, “primary leaseholders given the authority by landlords to choose roommates” will also not have to comply with the ordinance. Nor will those “renting mother-in-law apartments or backyard cottages on properties where they live.”
Landlords often reject those who have a record, but this new law will make doing that much more difficult. Proponents state that this new law will give those individuals with a criminal history a better chance at becoming productive members of society. City council member M. Lorena Gonzalez told The Seattle Times, “Once you pay your debt to society … at that point, you deserve a second chance.”
The rules for, and enforcement of, the ordinance will be handled by the Seattle Office of Civil Rights. It will also launch “anti-bias training program for landlords." If a rental applicant believes they have unfairly been denied housing, the applicant can file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. The office will then investigate the claim. If a violation of the ordinance is found, the landlord will have to pay a fine.
Vacating The Record
Ordinances like this are an excellent way to help those who have made a mistake move on with their lives. Another way that an individual can move on is to have their record vacated altogether. Those who qualify, can have arrests and warrants removed from their records and police systems. In addition, certain misdemeanor and felony convictions can be vacated under state law. A competent and skilled Seattle criminal defense attorney, like Steve Karimi, can help you determine if your record can be cleared. Contact his office today for a free consultation.