Landlords upset over possible ban on background checks for renters in New York City

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Landlords in New York City are upset that the City Council is considering banning criminal background checks on potential renters.

The landlords say background checks protect the safety of other tenants, but critics say it can discriminate against people convicted of minor crimes.

However, landlords pushed back and said they need to know if someone who wants to move in served time in prison and for what.

"We don't need or want any convicted sex offenders or serious drug dealers coming into the buildings and threatening the safety of other tenants inside," said Vito Signorile with the Rent Stabilization Association.

City Councilman Stephen Levin said the way things are now is just unfair.

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"Nobody should have to do their time twice, the way that we approach criminal justice in our society is that once you pay your debt to society, you should be able to start over again," Levin said.

A hearing just happened on the very issue, pulling in concerns about homelessness and racism.

"As we all know the criminal justice system over the last generation or two has been disproportionately impacting particularly Black men, young Black men, who have been criminalized for things that young white people do all the time," Levin said.

Landlords agree there is some room to talk -and that people deserve second chances but they say an owner has an obligation to vet tenants in their building.

Levin pointed to data from John Jay College suggesting the more serious an offense is punished, the lower the recidivism rate.

Right now there is no timeline for a vote, just more discussion ahead for the City Council.

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