New Jersey Governor Bars Landlords from Asking Prospective Tenants About Their Criminal History

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Dubbed the Fair Chance in Housing Act, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
Dubbed the “Fair Chance in Housing Act,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that he signed the executive order in honor of the newly-established federal holiday of Juneteenth, which now commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States every June 19. File photo: Lev Radin, Shutterstock.com, licensed.

TRENTON, NJ – According to an official press release, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Friday that bars landlords from asking prospective tenants about their past criminal history.

Dubbed the “Fair Chance in Housing Act,” Murphy said that he signed the executive order in honor of the newly-established federal holiday of Juneteenth, which now commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States every June 19.

“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 the press release.

Murphy noted that the bill was introduced to make housing more equitable for people who have difficulty renting due to their criminal background, a situation that tends to affect people of color more than other groups.

“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.”

The bill disallows landlords from asking about a possible tenant’s criminal history except in very specific circumstances, including someone being a registered sex offender or if they have been convicted of manufacturing the illegal drug methamphetamine while living in federally-assisted housing.

Only once a conditional offer has been made to a tenant can the landlord run a criminal background check, according to the bill. And even then, landlords can only consider offenses of the first degree within six years, second or third-degree crimes from the previous four years, or fourth degree offenses from within a year.

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