New guidance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development advises that turning down tenants and buyers based on criminal records could violate the Fair Housing Act.

Amy Glassman from law firm Ballard Spahr tells Bisnow that the guidance says, because of disparities in the criminal justice system, refusing to rent based on criminal record could constitute de facto discrimination.

“African-Americans and Latinos disproportionately have contact with the criminal justice system, so if housing providers conduct criminal background checks, they have to be really thoughtful about it,” Amy tells us.

The HUD guidance advises not to limit tenancy based off of arrest records, only convictions, and to only look at those convictions that are actually relevant.

“You have to look at convictions which are related to the interests of the landlord, in terms of protecting the property and collecting rent,” Amy says.