Division on Civil Rights Takes Enforcement Action Against Housing Providers for Failing to Comply with the Fair Chance in Housing Act

State Announces an Additional 30 Notices of Violation Issued to Housing Providers in New Jersey

For Immediate Release: July 5, 2023

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Division on Civil Rights
– Sundeep Iyer, Director

For Further Information:

Media Inquiries-
Tara Oliver
OAGpress@njoag.gov

TRENTON Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) announced today that DCR has issued 30 Notices of Violation to housing providers across the State for allegedly violating New Jersey’s Fair Chance in Housing Act (FCHA).  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, or by posting housing advertisements or maintaining housing policies that do not comply with FCHA.

The Notices of Violation announced today were served on housing providers located in 23 different municipalities across nine counties (Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Union).

With the actions announced today, DCR has now brought 124 enforcement actions against housing providers for violating the FCHA since the law went into effect in January 2022.

“The Fair Chance in Housing Act reflects the Murphy Administration’s continued commitment to ensuring that housing is accessible to all New Jerseyans,” said Attorney General Platkin. “People who have had an encounter with the criminal legal system must have fair access to housing so they can return to their communities with dignity without facing the difficulties caused by housing instability.  Our actions against these housing providers today underscores that commitment.”

“The Fair Chance in Housing Act is a pathbreaking statute that prevents housing discrimination on the basis of prior criminal history,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights. “Make no mistake:  We will continue to hold housing providers accountable when they violate this landmark law.”

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.

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.

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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

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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).

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