Minneapolis City Council unanimously approves ordinance preventing tenant screening

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance preventing landlords from deny potential tenants based on criminal or rental history.

The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday morning to approve a controversial new ordinance designed to protect renters. 

The renter’s protection ordinance prevents landlords from using old criminal or housing records to deny applicants. Specifically, an applicant cannot be denied if they have a misdemeanor conviction older than three years, a felony record dating back seven years, and more serious offenses that occurred 10-plus years ago. Landlords also lose the use of a credit score during the screening process and there is a new cap on security deposits at one month’s rent. 

Previously, property owners could look at someone’s criminal and credit history before renting to them, sometimes going back a decade. Renters said mistakes of the past should not affect their future, especially something from 10 or 20 years ago. 

“I am one of the folks who would benefit from this because of the fact that I have had terrible credit for a long time because of student loans and medical debt,” councilmember Phillipe Cunningham said. 

The debate at city hall was personal for some, including Lacey Gonzalez, who believes landlords care more about credit scores in the housing application process rather than rental payment history and references.

“No landlord has cared that I have paid rent on time every single month for more than 10 years,” Gonzalez said. 

Cecil Smith and other city landlords opposed the new regulations. Among their concerns was the safety of their properties and finding reliable tenants that ultimately may cost them more money.

“The ordinance does nothing to address the underlying problem that Councilman Jenkins raised which is, we just need more affordable housing,” Smith said. 

The ordinance passed 12-0.