With the recently implemented Portland FAIR Ordinance, there are still many unanswered questions, including what an Individualized Assessment should look like. The Ordinance provides no guidance on how such an assessment should be given, or what it even begins to entail.
Because this is all new territory in Portland, we can look to what has been done in this regard in other jurisdictions and under other laws for some potential ideas. One of the best examples we have so far is from the City of Los Angeles, in the form of their Fair Chance Initiative Hiring Ordinance. While this Ordinance has to do with Employment, rather than Tenant Screening, initiatives like it are the result of a growing push for Banning the Box in all areas. Regardless of the warrant for such laws, it is an increasing trend in the industry and we need to learn how to adapt accordingly.
If LA’s FCIHO Ordinance is a precedent for Employment Screening, then we can learn a few things about what it might look like on the Tenant side as well. Aside from the basic information about the applicant, it asks to identify the responsibilities of a given job function. If we think of this in Residential Terms, we could liken this to the responsibilities of the tenant in the owner-tenant relationship. The Assessment Form then asks for a description of the criminal charges and why they are of concern, how long it’s been since those crimes were committed, the applicant’s age at the time, and what they have done since then. Lastly, it provides a space for the applicant to provide evidence of their rehabilitation and good conduct for the owner to consider.
In 2016, HUD adopted new guidelines around the use of Criminal Records in screening and how to reduce discriminatory practices. Within this context, HUD stated that an …
individualized assessment of relevant mitigating information beyond that contained in an individual’s criminal record is likely to have a less discriminatory effect than categorical exclusions that do not take such additional information into account.
And supplied some some examples of what individualized evidence might include:
the facts or circumstances surrounding the criminal conduct; the age of the individual at the time of the conduct; evidence that the individual has maintained a good tenant history before and/or after the conviction or conduct; and evidence of rehabilitation efforts.
Some municipalities have even suggested having all relevant applicant data redacted (name, age, gender, etc.) before an Individualized Assessment is conducted by someone without any knowledge of the applicant, to keep it impartial.
The FAIR Ordinance doesn’t provide any help in knowing how to conduct an assessment, but following what others have done will hopefully provide you with enough information to allow you to craft your own assessments tools.
As always, we will do our best to keep you apprised of any changes in the laws that might affect this industry.