Minneapolis limits the reach of landlords doing background checks

People hold signs as they stand on steps behind a man at a podium
Supporters of a proposed ordinance restricting landlords' use of credit, criminal and eviction records to screen tenants gathered outside Minneapolis city hall on July 11, 2019.
Martin Moylan | MPR News

The rights of Minneapolis landlords to run background checks on potential renters will be limited, following the passage of a new ordinance by the City Council Friday.

The new rule is designed to make it easier for people with bad credit, lower incomes or criminal records to find housing.

Many landlords have been outspoken in their opposition.

Council President Lisa Bender thanked renters’ groups for their long-standing support as the ordinance was drafted and debated over the past year.

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“Frankly it’s a drop in the bucket to what we need to do to support people to be able to afford to live in our community,” Bender said. “I support the work and I stand behind it, but I’m a little flabbergasted that it took so much time and effort to pass what I think is a very moderate and small change.”

The proposal was heavily debated. The council passed one amendment to give landlords with 15 or fewer units an extra six months to comply with the new rule.

Council member Jeremiah Ellison wrote the ordinance. He voted against the amendment.

“We have in our communities folks that have put felonies way behind them. Do we really need a delay before we start moving on the implementation of this policy. I don’t think that we do,” Ellison said.

The new rule will take effect next year on June 1 for landlords with more than 15 rental units and Dec. 1 next year for landlords with 15 or fewer units.