Housing Providers in 12 Counties Received Notices of Violation
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that DCR has issued 35 Notices of Violation to housing providers across the State for allegedly violating New Jersey’s Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA), which is the first state law in the country that provides broad protections against housing discrimination on the basis of prior criminal history.
The Notices of Violation allege that the housing providers violated the law by asking criminal history-related questions on housing applications that are prohibited by the law, by stating to potential applicants that they would not consider applicants with prior criminal records, or by posting housing advertisements or maintaining housing policies that do not comply with the FCHA.
The Notices of Violation announced today were served on housing providers located in 23 municipalities across 12 counties: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, and Union.
Since the law went into effect in January 2022, DCR has brought over 150 enforcement actions against housing providers for allegedly violating the FCHA.
“The Murphy Administration’s continued commitment to ensuring that all New Jerseyans have access to housing is reflected in the Fair Chance in Housing Act,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Housing stability is critical to ensuring that justice-impacted individuals can return to their communities with dignity and build successful lives. And in New Jersey, a history with the criminal legal system cannot automatically bar you from having fair access to housing. Our actions against these housing providers today underscore our commitment to making safe and affordable housing a reality for our state’s residents, notwithstanding their criminal history.”
“New Jersey’s first-in-the-nation Fair Chance in Housing Act provides broad protections against discrimination on the basis of prior criminal history. But there continues to be far too many instances across the state of housing providers failing to comply with this groundbreaking law,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “The enforcement actions we’re announcing today are the next step in our efforts to expand enforcement of the Fair Chance in Housing Act, and we will continue to prioritize these enforcement actions in the months ahead.”
The enforcement actions announced today involve several different types of violations of the FCHA. In some cases, DCR found unlawful questions on initial housing applications—for example, questions asking whether the applicant was previously convicted of a felony. In other cases, DCR investigators contacted housing providers or brokers and asked whether they would consider an applicant who had a prior criminal record, and the housing provider or broker indicated they would not. And in other cases, DCR found housing advertisements posted on popular rental platforms, including Trulia and Apartments.com, that required a “clean criminal history” or “no criminal records.”
The FCHA went into effect on January 1, 2022 and generally bars housing providers from stating in any housing advertisements they post or publish that they will not consider housing applicants with a criminal record. The law also bars housing providers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history on an application form or in an interview prior to making the applicant a conditional offer of housing. Because policies and practices that limit housing opportunities for people with criminal records have a disproportionate impact on people of color and on Black people in particular, the law addresses a significant driver of racial inequity in housing access.
The Notices of Violation announced today inform the housing providers that DCR is aware that each provider either has asked a discriminatory question on its housing application form, or has included an unlawful statement of eligibility criteria (such as “no criminal records”) in its housing advertising materials. The Notices advise housing providers that DCR believes their actions are in violation of the law, and that they may face civil penalties of up to $1,000 for a first offense, up to $5,000 for a second offense, and up to $10,000 for any subsequent offense.
Each Notice of Violation is sent to the housing providers with information packets explaining in detail the FCHA and the obligations of housing providers under the law.
The information packets explain, among other things, that it is unlawful for a housing provider to consider any of the following records in determining the eligibility of a housing applicant:
- Arrests or charges that did not result in a criminal conviction;
- Expunged convictions;
- Convictions erased through executive pardon;
- Vacated and otherwise legally nullified convictions;
- Juvenile adjudications of delinquency; or
- Sealed records.
In general, a housing provider is permitted to ask about an applicant’s criminal history or conduct a criminal background check only after approving an applicant for housing and making the applicant a conditional offer of housing. In most cases, housing providers are not permitted to deny housing to someone simply because they have a criminal record.
The enforcement actions announced today are the result of investigative work conducted by DCR’s Fair Chance in Housing Unit, a dedicated enforcement unit within DCR that focuses on violations of the FCHA and the LAD’s prohibition against source-of-income discrimination.
For more information on the FCHA and how to file a complaint with DCR, please visit https://www.njoag.gov/about/divisions-and-offices/division-on-civil-rights-home/fcha/.
To view a related video on the FCHA, visit: https://youtu.be/iSihO98pEgA
DCR is the state agency responsible for preventing and eliminating discrimination and bias-based harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation (e.g., places open to the public like schools, businesses, hospitals, etc.) by enforcing the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), the New Jersey Family Leave Act, and the Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA).