This past weekend, the Star Tribune ran an article detailing how the Minneapolis City Council is attempting to pass an ordinance regarding the issue of tenant background screening. Essentially, the proposed ordinance mandates that landlords can't factor in certain criminal charges and/or past eviction proceedings when evaluating housing applications.
To be blunt, even if this passes, I don't think it will have much of a beneficial effect for tenants. A few reasons include:
1. The ordinance is incomprehensible. There seems to be several different screening schemes from which landlords may choose when considering a housing application. I say "seem" because I'm not really sure what's being required of the landlord, which sort of makes compliance difficult.
2. There doesn't seem to be much of an enforcement mechanism - i.e. no private right of action.
3. There are not disclosure requirements, so tenants won't even know if they've been illegally discriminated against.
However, the biggest impediment to to this ordinance, or any local ordinance from being effective, is that the criminal and civil case data are still available to the general public. So long as the information is easily accessible, landlords are going to try to obtain the information, whether on their own or through a tenant screening agency.
Despite my criticism, I appreciate Council Members Bender and Ellison's effort on this issue. Tenant screening is a big problem. As the article shows, there are substantial headwinds to creating a more even playing field for tenants. Unfortunately, I have a hard time envisioning how a city, even the largest city in the state, will be able to solve an issue revolving around the usage of state level data. Ultimately, this is probably only solvable by the legislature.