On Tuesday, March 10, 2020, the Berkeley City Council banned criminal background checks in nearly all rental housing units. The Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Ordinance prohibits landlords from conducting criminal background checks on prospective tenants and bans the box by prohibiting landlords from asking about applicant criminal history on rental applications.

The Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, officially titled the Ronald V. Dellums Fair Chance Access to Housing and Public Health and Safety Ordinance, seeks to combat homelessness, the housing crisis, and mitigate the disastrous effects of mass incarceration.

Codified at Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 13.106, the Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Ordinance will not apply to legal accessory dwelling units, single-family homes, duplexes, or triplexes where the owner occupies at least one of the units at the property.

The Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Ordinance does not prohibit landlords from reviewing the California sex offender list when screening prospective tenants. However, Berkeley landlords must perform an individualized assessment and allow the applicant to respond with mitigating evidence before denying housing.


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Berkeley is the second California city to pass such sweeping legislation. In January 2020, the Oakland City Council passed the Oakland Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, which has helped thousands.

At the City Council meeting, many spoke in favor of the proposed law. “We want to be a part of this community,” said John Jones III, who is formerly incarcerated. “That is why it is called a fair chance because we are just asking for a fair chance.”


Berkeley landlords who violate the Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Ordinance face significant legal exposure, including statutory penalties. Aggrieved tenants and applicants have the right to file a complaint with the City of Berkeley or a lawsuit in court.

The Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Ordinance expands the repertoire of existing protections the Berkeley Rent Ordinance, and numerous other local laws, provide Berkeley tenants. To discuss the Berkeley Fair Chance Housing Ordinance, Berkeley Rent Control, or California Rent Control (AB 1482), contact Astanehe Law to speak with a tenant attorney.

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