Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

By:  Steve Scalise
Date: June 27, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SCALISE. Madam Chair, this amendment is very limited and straightforward to deal with a problem that we've started getting a lot of calls from Realtors in our district, as I'm sure many of my colleagues across the country are receiving, as well as property owners who own apartment units and other types of housing that are rented out.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has recently come out with a rule called the ``disparity impact rule,'' and it's not a final rule that has been issued yet. We're just trying to make a narrow clarification that would allow property owners to be able to check and make sure that if somebody has a criminal conviction that that person could be prevented from moving into an apartment complex, for example, where you've got single mothers with young children.

Every single day in this country, property owners use background checks to check on criminal records of people that are applying for housing. This has nothing to do with violations of the Fair Housing Act. It's just a basic common practice that property owners use every day to make sure that somebody that's looking to move into housing doesn't have a criminal record. Some property owners can look at that, and some property owners can choose not to be concerned about that. But many millions of property owners across the country do look at whether or not somebody has got a criminal conviction in determining whether or not they will rent them housing. It's not only to protect the property owner who has in many cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, invested in that property, but also to protect the other residents who are renting property at that apartment.

So this new rule that's come out jeopardizes the ability of those property owners to look and make sure that somebody doesn't have a criminal conviction on their record. What this amendment would do would just ensure that if the Department of Housing and Urban Development goes forward with this rule, that the rule won't prevent somebody from using a tool that has been in the hands of property owners for generations just to make sure that somebody doesn't have a criminal conviction when they're moving into this housing unit that they own.

Again, I will use the example of a sex offender. There are sex offenders in most States, including my State of Louisiana. There are strict requirements of what somebody has to comply with if they're a convicted sex offender. They have to register, and they have to do a lot of other things. But if somebody doesn't comply with that law--and there are always cases we find of people who don't comply with that law--you don't know if when you're renting property to somebody whether or not they are a sex offender. But if you choose to do that background check and see if they've got that criminal conviction on their record, then you can say: Wait a minute, you're not coming into my apartment complex and jeopardizing the safety of those young children that already rent from me because we're going to make sure that if you've got that background check that shows that you're a sex offender, you're going to be denied.

Yet this new rule jeopardizes their ability to carry out what is a basic enforcement mechanism that property owners all across the country use every day to protect their properties. We just want to make sure that as it relates to
criminal convictions, that property owners can continue to look at that and make sure that that is something that they're not going to be found in violation of a law if they use that mechanism.

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