Would Mandatory Background Checks Reduce Renter-Related Crime in Ill. City?

Background checks are a growing and necessary part of hiring, but should they be used in the same way for bringing on housing tenants? A Belleville, Ill. taskforce assigned to review the city’s crime-free housing plan believes that landlords should be required to follow this procedure.

What’s their reasoning? According to the BND.com piece detailing the process at the end of September, screenings, overall, assist with determining who will – and won’t – be a good tenant, but, like employment, should never be used as a blanket measure. Landlords, with the option of using the local free public records database or paying for a more extensive search, would know who has a criminal past. The procedure, as well, could deter individuals with extensive rap sheets from applying for housing or causing trouble.

Landlords, ultimately, would be responsible for all judgments based on background checks. Although tenants with criminal histories are all considered, amount and time are two determining factor: does an individual have particularly extensive background, or were the crimes listed committed years ago? Was an individual ever arrested for disturbing the peace?

Nevertheless, BND.com points out, landlords face hurdles when managing tenants this way. First, background checks would only be conducted on the primary renter, and any guests – all who could potentially have a criminal past – would not be screened as such. Landlords, on the other hand, are responsible for tenants’ behavior, according to the crime-free housing plan. Any landlords who have multiple disruptive tenants would lose their licenses.

About this potential measure, Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore told the press: “This will encourage landlords to ask their tenants to be neighborly, to not disturb the peace and yell at passers-by. We have to put the financial burden on landlords who are not compliant.”

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