New Jersey governor signed an executive order that bars landlords from asking tenants about their criminal history

·2 min read
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Anne-Marie Caruso/The Record via AP, Pool
  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy passed legislation that bars landlords from asking prospective tenants about their criminal history.

  • The new law is an attempt to make housing more equitable for people of color.

  • Landlords can only inquire about criminal history if an applicant has met certain parameters, like registration as a sex offender.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed an executive order that broadly prohibits landlords from inquiring about a tenant's criminal history.

Murphy signed the Fair Chance in Housing Act to honor Juneteenth, the holiday that recognizes the end of slavery in the United States.

The bill was designed to make housing more equitable for people who are denied housing based on their criminal history. Scholars and activists for decades have said that the criminal justice system is racist, leading in part to people of color facing a disproportionate risk of getting housing applications denied.

"As we commemorate Juneteenth, we must commit to both remembering the past and continuing to take action to ensure communities of color, especially Black Americans, achieve the full equity they deserve," Murphy said in a press release.

"Today, I am proud to sign the Fair Chance in Housing Act into law and work to level what has been for too long an uneven playing field when it comes to access to housing," Murphy said. "I thank the sponsors and advocates for their tireless commitment to making this bill a reality and ensuring that New Jersey is a fairer place to live."

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The legislation bars landlords from asking about a prospective tenant's criminal history unless they've met certain parameters, like having been flagged as a sex offender or convicted for making meth in federally-assisted housing, the text of the Fair Chance in Housing Act says.

Only after a landlord makes a conditional offer to a tenant, the legislation says, can the former run a criminal background check.

The move has been heralded by leaders of civil-rights organizations across New Jersey.

"The Fair Chance in Housing Act will significantly impact Black and brown communities who have been devastated by our broken criminal justice and housing systems for generations," said Richard T. Smith, NAACP New Jersey State Conference President.

"We thank Governor Murphy for his strong support, and for signing this essential step towards equity into law," Smith added, according to the press release from the governor's office.

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