San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance
The San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance (SF FCO)is a new law that offers special protections for people with criminal records who apply to certain types of affordable housing in San Francisco.PG. 627.)(If you are interested in the parts of this new law that apply to employment, go the EMPLOYMENT CHAPTER, Appendix G, on
LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION ONLINE?
Check out the San Francisco Human Rights Commission’s website about how the SF FCO applies to affordable housing providers: http://sf-hrc.org/sites/sf-hrc.org/files/Fair%20Chance%20Housing%20Notice%20FINAL.pdf.
It protects applicants and tenants in city-funded affordable housing in San Francisco, California. It does NOT apply to federally subsidized housing (unless the property is receiving multiple subsidies including city-funded subsidies to keep it affordable).
No. These new legal protections apply only to city government-funded affordable housing in San Francisco, CA.
Under the San Francisco Fair Chance ordinance, “affordable housing” is defined as “any residential building in the City that has received funding from the City, connected in whole or in part to restricting rents, the funding being provided either directly or indirectly through funding to another entity that owns, master leases, or develops the building. Affordable Housing also includes ‘affordable units’ in the City as that term is defined in Article 4 of the Planning Code.” The term “housing provider” is broad, and includes any entity that owns, master leases, or develops affordable housing, and any agent, such as a property management company, that makes tenancy decisions on behalf if these entities.
We break down what rights the SF FCO gives you in each step of your application to affordable housing in San Francisco:
Know your rights when applying for affordable housing in San Francisco.
When you are APPLYING, Affordable housing providers in San Francisco:
- MUST NOT have a question about past convictions on the initial application. Before an affordable housing provider asks about your convictions or looks at a background check report on you, it must:
- Determine that you are (1) legally eligible to rent the housing unit and (2) qualified to rent the housing unit under the affordable housing provider’s criteria for evaluating rental history and credit history;
- Provide notice about the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance;
- Provide notice about state and federal laws about background checks.
- MUST NOT have blanket bans like “No Felons Apply.”
- In ads, they MUST state that they will consider qualified applicants with criminal histories.
- They MUST have a notice posted about the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance.http://sf-hrc.org/sites/sf-hrc.org/files/Fair%20Chance%20Housing%20Notice%20FINAL.pdfn. You can also see a copy on Appendix H, PG. 427.
Know you rights when asked about your criminal background.
What can city-funded affordable housing providers in San Francisco ask me about my criminal record after they find I am qualified for the housing in every other way?
After you’re found qualified, an affordable housing provider in San Francisco can ask about: pending (open) arrests, and convictions that are 0–7 years old (based on the date of sentencing).BUT even though they can ask about this information, there are limits on how the affordable housing provider can use it—see Step 3 below.
What can city-funded affordable housing providers in San Francisco NEVER ask me about my criminal record?
City-funded housing providers in San Francisco can never ask about:
- Arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction;
- Diversion or deferral programs;
- Dismissed convictions (which means any conviction that has been dismissed, expunged, voided, invalidated, or made inoperative by the Court);
- Juvenile convictions;
- Convictions older than 7 years (based on the date of sentencing);
- Infractions (meaning anything that is not a misdemeanor or felony).
- Affordable housing providers cannot ask about these 6 types of cases and can never use them against you at any stage!
Know you rights when being considered for affordable housing in San Francisco.
An affordable housing provider in San Francisco that is considering your conviction history must:
- Conduct an individualized assessment—meaning look at all of the circumstances of the person applying to housing and information available about their criminal record, including mitigating circumstances;
- Consider only “directly-related” convictions — which means that the underlying conduct “has a direct and specific negative bearing on the safety of persons or property, given the nature of the housing;”
- Consider the time that has passed since your conviction(s); and
- Consider any evidence of rehabilitation or mitigating information you share, such as:
- Completion of parole or probation;
- Letters of recommendation from employers or others;
- Education or training you’ve received;
- Participation in an alcohol/drug treatment program;
- Completion of rehabilitation programs; and
IF YOU ARE DENIED, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO RESPOND!!
You have only 14 days to respond. SO ACT FAST! You can respond IN WRITING or VERBALLY by:
- Pointing out any inaccuracies in the background check report, ANDProviding evidence of your rehabilitation or mitigating information. See the list of examples of evidence of your rehabilitation or mitigating information under Step 3 above.
- Any additional context for the conviction—including your age when you were convicted, or mitigating factors like physical or emotional abuse, coercion, untreated abuse/mental illness that led to the conviction.
Know you rights if you are denied affordable housing in San Francisco because of your criminal record.
If an affordable housing provider in SF wants to deny you because of your record, THEY MUST abide by the following rules:
- They cannot deny you because of a conviction more than 7 years old (based on the date of sentencing)
- They cannot deny you because of arrests that never led to convictions;
- They must provide you a copy of your background report;
- They must tell you why you were denied—what the issue was in your conviction history; and
- Give you 14 days to provide information about your rehabilitation or any errors in the background check report.
Know your rights to receive a final decision after you respond AND have to bring your case to another level of appeal.
Must I get notice of the housing provider’s final decision?
Yes. An affordable housing provider in SF who makes a final decision to deny you must give you a final notice. If a final negative decision is made based on your criminal record, you should consider challenging the decision to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. HOW? See STEP 6 below.
Report clear violations to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission within 60 days.
If you believe that there has been a violation of the rules above, you should report it to the SF Human Rights Commission. This must be done within 60 days of the violation (when you get your final decision).
Clear violations include:
- Asks about your criminal record on an initial housing application;Has a blanket ban like “We don’t accept felons,” or didn’t consider your criminal record on a case-by-case basis;Didn’t give you notice of your rights;Denied you because of a conviction that was older than 7 years.
You can begin the process of reporting a violation by following these 3 steps:
- Step 1: Fill out a complaint form online here: http://hrc.sfintranet.firmstep.com/achieveforms-node/discrimination-public-form, and submit. Give as many details about the discrimination as possible! You can submit the complaint form online, by mail, or in person.
- Step 2: Call (415) 252-2500 to schedule an intake interview. If you submitted the intake questionnaire online, HRC will contact you to set up an intake interview appointment.
- Step 3: After intake, the HRC will try to mediate between you and the housing provide; investigate the alleged violation; and make a finding about whether or not the housing provider broke the law. The HRC’s process for responding to these complaints looks like this:
NOTE: HRC's Discrimination Complaints Investigation and Mediation Division investigates and mediates complaints of discrimination and non-compliance in employment, housing, and public accommodation.
REMEMBER—YOU ARE AN AGENT OF CHANGE!WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO REPORT VIOLATIONS OF THE SAN FRANCISCO FAIR CHANCE ORDINANCE TO THE SAN FRANCISCO HRC?
It’s important to report violations because:
- You are helping to enforce this important law that adds protection for people with criminal records applying for affordable housing in San Francisco;Helping others in your community;The Human Rights Commission (HRC) can find out more information than you can;You could get relief—for example, be admitted into the affordable housing.The affordable housing provider could be penalized by the city—and hopefully won’t do it again!
S.F. POLICE CODE, Art. 49, San Francisco’s Fair Chance Ordinance. ↑
A housing provider may run a criminal history/background check report at the same time as it runs a rental or credit history check, BUT it may not look at the report before determining if the applicant is qualified to live in the housing unit. ↑
S.F. Police Code, Art. 49, § 4907(b). ↑
S.F. Police Code, Art. 49, § 4907(c). ↑
S.F. Police Code, Art. 49, §§ 4906, 4907. ↑
S.F. Police Code, Art. 49, § 4903. ↑
S.F. Police Code, Art. 49, § 4903. ↑
S.F., Cal., Police Code, Art. 49, § 4911(a). ↑
How to File a Discrimination Complaint in Employment, Housing or Public Accommodation, City and Cnty. of San Francisco, Human Rights Commission, http://sf-hrc.org/how-file-discrimination-complaint-employment-housing-or-public-accommodation. ↑
S.F., Cal., Police Code, Art. 49, § 4909(a). ↑