Screening Out Terrorists – A How To For NY Landlords
Screening for good tenants has always been important. Since 9/11/01, preventive measures against crime, including terrorism are especially important. Incorporating proactive steps in the screening process will prevent dangerous tenants from exposing others to life-threatening activities. Landlords should update written policies and train staff in screening procedures.
Landlords can not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, disability, military status, sexual orientation, or familial status. However, they are not prohibited from discriminating on the basis of citizenship. Asking for documentation of citizenship or immigration status does not violate fair housing laws.
However, it can’t be a pretext for discrimination and can’t result in disparate treatment. All applicants should be treated the same. Pursuant to Executive Order 13224, all U.S. citizens and organizations are prohibited from any business transaction with any person or entity on the United States Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (“OFAC”), Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (“SDN List”).
OFAC administers economic and trade sanctions against nations and individuals. The SDN list contains the names of persons deemed to be involved in money laundering, drug trafficking, terrorism or terrorist financing. Landlords, property managers and brokers must check present and prospective tenant’s names against the SDN list at www.ustreas.gov.
The OFAC Hotline is 800-540-6322. Records must be saved for five years. For violations, the criminal penalties are $50,000 to $10,000,000; imprisonment for 10 to 30 years and civil penalties up to $1,000,000.
Landlords should screen as follows:
- Rental applications completed by each applicant should ask the applicant “Are you or any member of your household a SDN or other Blocked Person designated by the U.S. government as a person who commits or supports terrorism or is involved in international narcotics trafficking?” Inquire about any discrepancies or gaps in residence or employment history. Verify the applicant’s employment.
- Credit/criminal reports from www.saferent.com and ww.realpage.com contain SDN, rental history, criminal history, akas, prior employers, roommates and addresses, and verify the authenticity of Social Security numbers.
- Request original documentation to verify the applicant’s identity: Social Security cards, driver’s license, pay stubs, student id, visa or green card.
- Leases should provide that the tenant represents that he or she is not on the SDN list, authorizes additional periodic SDN checks, and permits the landlord to terminate the lease for terrorist or other criminal activity.