Tenant screening providers serve an important public interest by offering what tenants demand and the law often requires: safe places to live.  This is why CDIA and PBSA joined forces to file an amicus brief before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging Seattle’s “fair chance” ordinance that largely bans criminal background checks of prospective tenants by landlords.  This ban threatens the safety of people in apartment buildings across the city.

Several landlords are appealing a misguided opinion from the federal district court in Seattle.  In its appeal, the landlords rightly argue that

  • The First Amendment protects the right to ask questions and the right to receive publicly available information. By prohibiting inquiries about the criminal histories of prospective tenants, the Ordinance violates the First Amendment.
  • The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment forbids governments from depriving citizens of fundamental property interests unless the deprivation substantially advances a legitimate government purpose. By burdening landlords’ right to exclude prospective tenants based on criminal history, the Ordinance violates due process.

Tenant screening reports assist housing providers in fulfilling their duty to provide safe housing for their tenants and their guests, as well as safe workplaces for their employees. CDIA and PBSA argue in its brief that the U.S. District Court committed an error in finding that inquiries into a consumer’s prior criminal record are purely commercial speech subject to mere rational basis judicial scrutiny, and in finding that the City had satisfied its burden to justify the Ordinance’s infringement upon the landlords’ Constitutional rights. The appellate court must reverse the decision of the District Court below and find the Ordinance unconstitutional.

CDIA and PBSA are represented in their amicus by Rebecca Kuehn and Jennifer Sarvardi of HudsonCook.