Habitat - September/October 2016 - 18

COVER FEATURE Safeguarding Property Assets and Residents What you need to know about background checks and onsite surveillance BY SANDY SMITH PROTECTING PHYSICAL ASSETS and maintaining a safe and secure environment for residents encompasses two different strategies: onsite surveillance and background checks. Even if a property owner or manager has a process to implement both of these strategies, changes that affect both areas make it important to review and re-evaluate how site security is approached. One of the most critical changes is the recent guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on use of criminal background checks. "On April 4, 2016 HUD issued a memorandum that addressed criminal background checks and the effect they have on African-Americans and Hispanics," explained J. Mike Williams, Esq., managing attorney of Fowler, Hein, Cheatwood & Williams P.A. Prior to this memo, many apartment owners' application policy denied approval of applicants with felony convictions. If the policy was applied consistently for all applicants, regardless of crime committed, everyone believed it was not discriminatory, said Williams. Because African-Americans and Hispanics are convicted at a rate that is disproportionately higher than their representation in the general population, the HUD guidance is based on the 18 | H A BITAT | w w w.atl-apt.org belief that excluding convicted persons unfairly penalizes these populations, he says. "There can no longer be a general blanket disqualification for convictions and arrests - without conviction - it can't be considered," he added. "However, the conduct behind a crime can be considered," pointed out Williams. For example, a person convicted of violent crimes against other people can be denied because the behavior places other residents at risk, he explained. Dealing drugs, burglaries, arson and crimes against children are also behaviors that can affect the safety of physical assets or residents. "The challenge for property owners is the use of third-party vendors to conduct background checks," said Williams. Companies do not have the processes in place to pull records and factor the conditions of the crime into analysis of the resident's application. "Many apartment owners and managers are just turning off the criminal background check, which is a risk," he said. One reason review of criminal records might seem overwhelming is the number of years some property managers looked back at records. "Some management companies looked back too far - in some cases 50 years for all crimes," said Williams. In most cases, a look-back period of seven years makes sense, he said. This time period matches the look-back period for employment-related criminal background checks, as well as HUD's own practices for Section 8 housing, which means it is already considered reasonable. "We recommend that misdemeanors not be considered unless they were crimes against persons or property," said Williams. If the seven-year lookback shows multiple offenses, the property manager can request a 10-year report that will clarify a pattern of behavior, he suggested. The change to a seven-year report will provide access to apartments that didn't exist when crimes committed at any point in life were a reason for denial, said Williams. For example, if a 19-yearold is convicted of using drugs 15 years before applying for an apartment - and has never committed another crime, it is unlikely they are a high risk for property owners. Another suggestion to avoid the appearance of blanket denial of people convicted of crimes is to vet applications in a two-step process, suggested Williams. "Have the third-party provider run a credit check first, and then run a criminal background check if the applicant's credit check qualifies for an apartment." By separating the two reports, there can be no suggestion that http://www.atl-apt.org

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Habitat - September/October 2016

Chair’s Message
Legal Talk
Government Affairs
Up Close
Safeguarding Property Assets and Residents
Foundation Update
Volunteer’s Corner
AAA Platinum Patron Member Profile: For Rent
AAA Gold Patron Member Profile: Affinity Pools
New Members
Advertisers’ Index
Habitat - September/October 2016 - cover1
Habitat - September/October 2016 - cover2
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 3
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 4
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 5
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 6
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 7
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 8
Habitat - September/October 2016 - Chair’s Message
Habitat - September/October 2016 - Legal Talk
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 11
Habitat - September/October 2016 - Government Affairs
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 13
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 14
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 15
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 16
Habitat - September/October 2016 - Up Close
Habitat - September/October 2016 - Safeguarding Property Assets and Residents
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 19
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 20
Habitat - September/October 2016 - Foundation Update
Habitat - September/October 2016 - Volunteer’s Corner
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 23
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 24
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 25
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 26
Habitat - September/October 2016 - AAA Platinum Patron Member Profile: For Rent
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 28
Habitat - September/October 2016 - AAA Gold Patron Member Profile: Affinity Pools
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 30
Habitat - September/October 2016 - New Members
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 32
Habitat - September/October 2016 - Advertisers’ Index
Habitat - September/October 2016 - 34
Habitat - September/October 2016 - cover3
Habitat - September/October 2016 - cover4
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