Does a Landlord Have a Duty to Determine Whether or Not an Applicant is Registered as a Convicted Sex Offender?
A landlord does not have a duty to check on the status of an applicant as a convicted sex offender.
The law is less clear on this topic. On one hand, the law prohibits sex offender registry information from being used for the purpose of denying housing. A landlord who does use the registry for that purpose can be sued for damages and possibly fined. However, a landlord also has a duty to protect residents from known risks, or risks that the landlord should have been able to recognize.
If a landlord decides that sex offenders constitute a known risk, he or she may consider denying applicants who are current sex offenders or evicting such residents. If a person is found to be a current health or safety risk to others that person will not be protected by fair housing discrimination laws.
What if the Landlord Asks an Applicant About His Status but the Applicant Lies?
Regardless of the landlord's stand on renting to convicted sex offenders, if the rental application asks about a conviction and the applicant misrepresents his status the landlord can argue that the misrepresentation constitutes a material breach of the contract. In that situation the contract could be voided entirely, and then could be used as the basis of denying the applicant housing or evicting a current resident.
Here also the law is less clear, and is best decided on a case by case basis. In some circumstances the landlord may have a duty to investigate further to determine the nature of the offense, how long ago the offense occurred, and the punishment that was imposed. A landlord may have no duty in this situation if the police are planning to notify residents of the neighborhood, which they sometimes do. Also, since sex offender registry information is available to the public the landlord may have no duty to notify other residents to information they could obtain themselves.
In California all residential leases and rental agreements entered into on or after July 1, 1999, must contain a paragraph in 8-point font which informs the resident that he or she has the right to access sex offender information. A landlord is not required to provide any other information regarding the proximity of sex offenders. The statutory duty is to inform the resident that he or she has the right to access the information themselves.
Whether you are a landlord or a convicted sex offender who has been discriminated against, a good lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights and duties.
Last Modified: 01-10-2018 10:31 PM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
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