New York City landlords would be banned from checking credit scores to decide whether to rent to would-be tenants under a bill introduced in the City Council.
The legislation also would prevent landlords from checking potential tenants’ medical debt, consumer debt judgments and debts that have been sent to collection agencies.
Owners could still run detailed credit reports and use other information to make decisions - including history of bankruptcy, foreclosure, delinquencies on current debt and how much total debt a tenant owes.
"We don’t want people who have had tough times financially to be blocked out of the housing market. If that happens they’re going to end up in homeless shelters," said Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan).
Frank Ricci of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, criticized the proposal.
"It’s a ludicrous idea," he said. "An owner has to have some ability to screen a tenant’s ability to pay the rent."
Renting to people who end up deep in arrears would end up hurting other tenants because small landlords wouldn’t be able to afford repairs, Ricci said.
"You can put an entire building in jeopardy by having one deadbeat tenant," he said.
But Levin said many of the credit measures he’s singling out in the legislation are prone to errors. What’s more, landlords would still have ways to determine if a tenant can pay - including verifying income."Any owner who’s sophisticated enough to be pulling your history is going to be looking for proof of income," he said. "We don’t want people to end up in housing they can’t afford but we also want to make sure people who had some tough luck but are able to pay aren’t precluded from housing.”
Some affordable housing developments have had trouble filling their apartments in part because locals who meet the low-income requirements don’t have good enough credit to qualify, he said.
The legislation doesn't specify a fine, but tenants could bring a complaint under city human rights law if they think they’re being dinged for their credit score.