The Equal Rights Center (ERC) has released an online-learning course for housing providers on criminal records screening. The course is available on the ERC website and will be offered free of charge for the next six months.
The interactive course, Best Practices for Ensuring that Criminal Records Screening Policies & Practices Comply with Fair Housing Requirements, explains how criminal records screening can lead to housing discrimination, and gives housing providers best practices for making sure their housing-related criminal records screening policies and practices align with the Fair Housing Act and recent guidance from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The course is divided into seven modules that are designed to be completed in less than two hours. The lineup features a variety of audio, video, and written content.
The Washington, D.C.–based ERC, a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, is initially offering the course for free to “counteract discrimination on the part of a large national housing provider.”
According to the ERC, one of its recent investigations revealed that the provider implemented a total ban on residents with any felony conviction, some misdemeanor convictions, and a variety of felony and misdemeanor charges. Through the provider’s online application, one of the first questions applicants encountered was whether they had a felony conviction on their record, according to the ERC. If an applicant responded yes to the question, he or she would be unable to proceed with completing and submitting an application for the company.
“Such a policy and practice fly in the face of 2016 guidance from HUD and likely violate the Fair Housing Act,” the ERC stated in a release. “In response, the ERC found it necessary to conduct significant education and outreach to make housing providers aware of their fair housing obligations in relation to criminal records screening.”
Melvina Ford, the ERC’s executive director, said in a statement, “We hope that housing providers in Washington, D.C., and nationwide take advantage of this free course and apply it to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, national origin, or any other protected class, receives equal treatment when applying for housing.”