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Q: I have an applicant applying for one of our rentals. When doing her background check, a criminal record was noted. She was convicted of felony DUI manslaughter about 15 years ago. Can I refuse to rent her the property due to this criminal history? 

A: You may use a criminal background check in screening prospective tenants. The Virginia Fair Housing Office has provided guidance on this issue. First, screen applicants for income and creditworthiness. If an applicant’s income and credit qualify, then conduct a limited criminal background check that will provide enough information to determine if the applicant may present a current direct threat of harm to others or the risk of substantial damage to the property of others. If such a criminal record exists to create a concern about current safety, allow the applicant to provide evidence to the contrary. Lastly, make sure your policy on this matter is clear and available to all applicants.  

In this instance, the event occurred almost 15 years ago, and this event alone may not establish a current threat. If still concerned, provide the applicant with the opportunity to explain why she is not such a threat now.  

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