For media inquiries, contact: Kate Scott, Deputy Director, kscott@equalrightscenter.org

Washington, D.C., December 7, 2017— Today, the Equal Rights Center (ERC), a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington, D.C. and nationwide, released a new online learning course about criminal records screening in housing. The interactive course, Best Practices for Ensuring that Criminal Records Screening Policies & Practices Comply with Fair Housing Requirements, explains how criminal records screening can yield housing discrimination and gives housing providers best practices for ensuring that their housing related criminal records screening policies and practices align with the Fair Housing Act and recent guidance from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It is available on the ERC website and will be offered free of charge for the first six months following its release.

The course is divided into seven modules that are interactive and easy to understand. It is designed to be completed in less than two hours and features a variety of audio, video, and written content.

The ERC produced the course and is initially offering it for free to counteract discrimination on the part of a large national housing provider. A recent ERC investigation revealed that the provider implemented a total ban on residents with any felony conviction, some misdemeanor convictions, and a variety of felony and misdemeanor charges. Through the provider’s online application, one of the first questions applicants encountered was whether they have a felony conviction on their record. If an applicant responded yes to the question, they were unable to proceed with completing and submitting an application. Such a policy and practice fly in the face of 2016 guidance from HUD and likely violate the Fair Housing Act. In response, the ERC found it necessary to conduct significant education and outreach to make housing providers aware of their fair housing obligations in relation to criminal records screening.

Melvina Ford, the ERC’s Executive Director, comments, “We hope that housing providers in Washington, D.C., and nationwide take advantage of this free course and apply it to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, national origin, or any other protected class, receives equal treatment when applying for housing.”

The course is currently available for free under the Compliance and Training section of the ERC’s website.

If you believe that you may have experienced discrimination related to a housing provider’s criminal records screening policy or practice, please contact the ERC at 202-234-3062 or info@equalrightscenter.org to report your experience.


The ERC is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington DC and nationwide. The ERC’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the ERC identifies discrimination, it seeks to eliminate it through the use of testing data to educate the public and business community, support policy advocacy, conduct compliance testing and training, and, if necessary, take enforcement action. For more information, please visit www.equalrightscenter.org.

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