Rental application: test for drug use?... - Posted by HR

Posted by JPiper on February 09, 2001 at 12:08:17:

My understanding is completely the opposite.

What I’m told again is that if an applicant’s criminal record has been caused by the person’s disability, then the landlord may be asked to allow the applicant an opportunity to establish that ehy have successfully taken steps to assure that the criminal conduct caused by the disability will not recur. An applicant that can prove that he has quit using drugs, or is in, or has successfully completed a drug addiction recovery program is covered, unless they were guilty of distribution or manufacture of the illegal drug.

Frankly, I hope you’re right and that I’m wrong. And it certainly would not be the first time or undoubtedly the last time I’ve been wrong. I’m further not certain about the implementation of what I’ve said above either.

I would also say that I have questioned the police here extensively about drug related issues as they affect landlords. I have gotten some very good information, but at the same time I’ve gotten some questionable information. In this case, my information is coming from a local landlord association whose views regarding fair housing I would rate somewhat higher. As always, it’s important to check with an authority in the area…and frankly I wouldn’t put either the police or the landlord association in that category regarding fair housing laws.


Rental application: test for drug use?.. - Posted by HR

Posted by HR on February 09, 2001 at 06:32:28:


I’ve been a bad boy of late. I promise that I wasn’t intending to create posts that would get deleted by the webmaster (Clinton as rei; discriminate vs. tenants with guns), but, ahhh, nonetheless I find I stirred the pot there a little too much.

I’m trying to be a good boy and avoid that here. I don’t want this to become a discussion of American drug policy, lol.

Ok: here is the question. How can I word on my application that I want to screen for drugs? My understanding is that past drug addiction is a protected class. Thus, I may place myself in hot water if I make it sound like I’ve excluded them for this. But, let’s get real. I don’t want drug addicts in my section 8 rentals either, if I can avoid it (especially stoned addicts with a gun; lol; I coulden’t resist. :wink: Am I getting into to much trouble if I ask on my application if anyone in the household has had legal problems concerning drugs? Or, better yet, can I ask them if they would be willing to take a voluntary drug test as part of the application criteria? I don’t plan on making anyone take it, but, again, perception is reality. My plan here would be to let the folks afraid of the drug test self-select themselves out to the process.

Ideas, anyone?


Re: Rental application: test for drug use?.. - Posted by Jim IL

Posted by Jim IL on February 09, 2001 at 22:44:23:

I guess I was partly to blame for the “deleted thread of old”, but it was fun.
Thank you for it, and for this one as well.
Makes you think about quite a bit.
Anyway, as for this thread, I’ll not enter into the debate, because even though I have plenty of experience dealing with drug addicts, dealers, and other assorted ilk of society, I am clueless as to the legality of a drug test for possible tenants.
But, when it comes to criminal background checks, there are a few different ways to get them done anywhere.
I’m sure there is a service in your area that will do them, but the cost varies.
You could pay one of them, like a P.I. to do them, or some local police departments will give you one, with a signed authorization from the tenant/applicant.
The tenant/applicant can get one themselves.

The other way would be to get the person name, date of birth and social security number and look yourself.
You can certainly check local charges, not just convictions by looking at the files in the court clerks office.
This may take some time, and seem like too much work, but it can be done.
Just goto the county court clerks office, I know that 90% of them are computerized in some way.
While there, run the persons full name, date of birth, and soc. sec. number.
Then, check the computer for same last name, same first name etc, and see if any of those are the same person but with an alias , or a typo in the file.
Just mix the name up, and look at it.
I ran a guy once, and he looked to have a clean record.
Sure enough, the DOB and soc number on his application to me were just one digit off.
He was in the files, with the correct info for some past serious felonie convictions.
Needless to say, I now check the persons I.D. when taking an application.

This way at least you will see any charges, and/or convictions in your local jurisdiction. (sp?)
I pay a friend to run mine, because I don’t have the time.
She does several each time, so it take her one trip to the clerks office.
She can do a dozen or so in minutes, thanks to the clerks little computer for looking up files.

Anyway, just some ideas for you,
Jim IL

P.S. If you do ever need help locating someone, or gathering info on them, feel free to e-mail me. I was a cop for ten years, and ran my own P.I. firm for a while as well.

A little ‘controversy’ never hurt anyone… - Posted by SusanL.–FL

Posted by SusanL.–FL on February 09, 2001 at 13:03:13:

…now did it??? :slight_smile:

I enjoyed the HECK out of your last two posts (Clinton and guns).


Re: Rental application: test for drug use?.. - Posted by Rob FL

Posted by Rob FL on February 09, 2001 at 09:24:47:

All these wonderful things you continue to bring up is the reason why I avoid Section 8 tenants. Everytime someone comes to me asking if I accept Section 8, I tell them “Thanks but, no thanks.” Of course if you own properties in certain parts of town I guess you don’t have much choice.

(What I really love are the tenants making $1500 or $2000 a month and tell me they are on Section 8. All I think is “Gee Whiz, I wish I could make that much money and get a stinkin’ welfare check handed to me.”)

Re: Rental application: test for drug use?.. - Posted by JPiper

Posted by JPiper on February 09, 2001 at 08:39:00:

Here’s a couple of thoughts on this.

First, fair housing laws don’t prohibit setting fair screening guidelines, but they should be applied equally to all applicants.

Understand that you could run a criminal background check. My understanding though is that you are only allowed to consider the last 7 years of criminal history for the purpose of making a rental decision. And again, you should run criminal background checks on all applicants if you’re going to do it.

Applicants who are currently using illegal drugs are not protected under the fair housing laws. HOWEVER, someone who can prove they have quit using drugs, or are in, or have successfully completed a drug-addition recovery program are protected under the fair housing laws. So be careful if you use criminal history because if the criminal act was caused by a “disability”, then that applicant may be protected if he can establish that the criminal conduct “caused” by the disability will not recur. In the case of drugs, my understanding is that the exception is limited to use or possession of an illegal drug…but not distribution or manufacture of an illegal drug.

My feeling is that you are within your bounds to do a drug screening test. In fact, I have recently read of a court case where the landlord routinely did drug screening and was sued over this…and prevailed. Can’t remember where I read it, but it’s been recent.

A local police representative involved in with local drug programs recently told me that I should have the applicant go to the police department to get a copy of their criminal history. Supposedly this history shows arrests as well as convictions…obviously a more substantial history. They will release this to the applicant on themselves, but you can’t get it. I haven’t done this…but the policemans idea was that there’s a big difference between an arrest record and a conviction record…where there’s smoke there’s fire so to speak. But again keep in the back of your mind that drug addiction is considered a disability so there’s a fine line.


Re: Rental application: test for drug use?.. - Posted by Tim Jensen

Posted by Tim Jensen on February 09, 2001 at 07:02:47:


The way I get around that is to use a one page application/lease. On that lease, just put a provision that makes drug use a reason for eviction. That should get the message accross. Finally, you can do a criminal background check. I do them on the tennts for free at our courthouse.


PS- e-mail me if you want a copy of my lease/application.

Yes… - Posted by HR

Posted by HR on February 10, 2001 at 08:51:06:


Yes, it was fun thread, wasn’t it? Lol. Nothing wrong with pushing the envelope every now and then.

Thanks for this information. I’m going to digest it and see how I can put it to use. I really appreciate it. Thanks.

Here’s a topic I’m really interested in lately: skip tracing. My favorite method of finding deals is tracking down owners of blighted houses. I hit a wall, though, when: 1) the owner is deceased and succession hasn’t been open; or 2) I think the owner is living but I can’t find them.

I can usually get social security numbers on the departed owner. My next need is to figure out how to find them, negotiate a deal for this asset they’ve abandoned, overnite a purchase agreement, etc. A couple questions for you, if you don’t mind.

  1. Are there any easy or cheap ways to determine who the heirs may be? I ask neighbors, but they don’t always know. If that’s the case, how can I find them?

  2. When I have someone who I suspect is still living, and I have other data, like their ss#, how easy will it be for a skip tracer to find them? What is a fair cost for this service? Can I do it myself? Any good resources you recommend I get? (CDs, internet sites, etc).

Thanks, Jim. Any advice is appreciated.


LOL; Clinton, guns, and dope. What’s next? (nt) - Posted by HR

Posted by HR on February 09, 2001 at 17:43:38:


Here’s the next forbidden topic: Class (lol)… - Posted by HR

Posted by HR on February 09, 2001 at 17:47:39:

Hey Rob,

I’m not paranoid about my low income folks. Some of the neighborhoods Ive bought in lately are an the rough side, though. So Im asking to get all my bases covered.

Just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they have a greater proclivity towards violence or drugs… WHOA…WHOA!!! I feel a whole thread on class coming! Abandon ship! Abandon ship! LOL.


PS. I’ll keep you appraised of my section 8 experience. I expect it (and plan to run it) to be far better than disastrous.

Thanks, Jim. Any ideas… - Posted by HR

Posted by HR on February 09, 2001 at 17:55:29:

on how to implement this?

I guess on a practical matter, it’s do a criminal background check, eviction history, and clause in lease about illegal activity = default which = eviction (which for a section 8 tenant could = end of participation in the program). We don’t have the ability to do criminal background checks here, and, even if the state police would do it, none of these folks have the transportation to get there. So that’s probably not feasible for me.

I suspect that the best I can do is 1) credit history; 2) rental application info verification; 3) visit current residence; and 4) get permission to interview their section 8 file. Finally, do routine inspections monthly for awhile to make sure the new tenant is in order.

Thanks for any advice.


Re: Rental application: test for drug use?.. - Posted by Mark (SDCA)

Posted by Mark (SDCA) on February 09, 2001 at 11:01:48:

One thought on this. I have had extensive discussions with the local community action team on this ie the police. I don’t believe that criminal conduct casued by the disability would be covered. Felons are not a protected class. My understanding is that rejecting someone with a criminal record is not a problem.


forbidden topic: Class (lol)… - Posted by Rob FL

Posted by Rob FL on February 10, 2001 at 16:59:47:

I won’t go there, but I tend to think class does have alot to do with it. Of course anyone can change classes if they really want to.