Landlords and New Yorkers Deserve Background Verification of Potential Tenants

There is a growing tendency to view criminals as a new protected class. Sane New Yorkers should reject this idea before it’s too late.

In the City Council hearing on entry 0632, which would have banned homeowners from background checks on prospective tenants, attorneys and my fellow council members named criminals who had been convicted by a jury and spent time in jail as victims. And they used the language of the civil rights movement to describe the difficulties ex-convicts face in finding an apartment in New York.

If this city is to recover from rising crime, inflation and a deteriorating quality of life, we must return to reality.

In the vast majority of cases, a person ends up in jail because he or she chose wrong over right. Too many councilors and advocates have come to believe that “systematic racism” – or whatever term people use to refer to “society” – leads to crime and high prison populations. LIE.


Apartment for rent sign.
Council members pushing the bill are portraying those previously convicted of crimes as victims.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Committing a crime and a criminal past is the result of a wrong choice. We can discuss the detrimental effects of broken families, poverty, and substance abuse, but if someone has their brains and commits a crime, they are ultimately responsible for the consequences.

This argument that perpetrators are victims is part of a larger attempt to distort reality that often begins by changing the meaning of words. Progressives can no longer bring themselves to say “ex-prisoner.” Even the “ex-offender” is too harsh. Now the correct terminology is “involved justice”.

Following this twisted logic, background checks as part of an assessment of who will live on your property is no longer prudent, it is discrimination, a word usually reserved for racists and bigots. The far left now formulates most arguments in terms of moral absolutism, leaving no room for compromise. You either support his policies or you support discrimination (and whatever “ism” is in vogue).

Even if you think that the crime has some root cause that has nothing to do with personal choice, Intro 0632 is still a bad score. The law as written is unenforceable and allows unfounded lawsuits against landlords.

Joanne Kamouf Ward, Deputy Commissioner for Policy and External Affairs of the Commission on Human Rights, said it was impossible to say definitively whether someone got an apartment because of a criminal past. The evidence is based on “feelings”, “anecdotes” of people and “research” (from lawyers) about finding an apartment in New York.


Living room in a modern apartment.
Reportedly, it is impossible to say unequivocally whether someone got an apartment because of a criminal past.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you can’t prove that landlords use background checks to deny tenants a home, even if it’s law to do that, how is the city going to prove it happens when it’s illegal?

Indeed: since credit checks will continue to be allowed, it is not hard to imagine that this bill will be passed and landlords, using credit checks and their own judgment, will become more selective, no less, in who they rent. Thus, the advice may inadvertently encourage homeowners to use their biases and biases as a means of judgment as we remove goal tool as a means of evaluation. Bills like Intro 0632, however well-intentioned, could have the unintended consequences of hurting innocent New Yorkers.

It is important that the city has a process by which persons released from prison can reintegrate into society. To reduce recidivism, we need employment programs, a functioning homeless shelter system, and mental health services that provide long-term mental health care to those in need.

To that end, my bill, Intro 0793, requires City agencies and hospitals to report the number of outpatient referrals and petitions filed by City agencies and hospitals with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. As I wrote earlier, we should use the Law of Kendra more as a means to help the mentally ill who have committed crimes.

But we cannot refuse the reality that many dangerous people live in our city. It is not the prerogative of the government to force law-abiding landlords to provide housing for these dangerous people.

For many New Yorkers, refusing background checks will mean sharing a hallway with the likes of Douglas Powell, a convicted rapist who spewed racist hate against Asian New Yorkers while representing VOCAL-NY at a December hearing.

And before you say this bill doesn’t cover sex offenders, let me be the first to predict that once it’s passed, a new bill will be introduced that will further limit what homeowners can and can’t do when verification of applicants. .

If council members really believe what they say, let them build more homeless shelters and low income housing in their neighborhoods. Leave law abiding citizens alone.

Robert Holden is a Democratic City Councilman representing Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood in Queens.

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