Affordable housing protections for people with criminal history

San Francisco's Fair Chance Ordinance protects residents with arrest or conviction history in affordable housing decisions.

Fair Chance Ordinance

San Francisco’s Fair Chance Ordinance (FCO) protects tenants and applicants from discrimination by affordable housing providers based on criminal history information. Read the Fair Chance Ordinance

Criminal records and background checks

For Affordable Housing in San Francisco, before checking your criminal record, the housing provider must:

  • Determine your eligibility for affordable housing by reviewing all other qualifications 
  • Provide you with a copy of your rights before running a background check

The housing provider may not ask about any criminal history information on a rental application form.

What they may consider:

The housing provider must assess your record individually. They may only consider “directly-related” convictions and unresolved arrests in your record. 

What they may not consider:

  • Arrests that did not result in conviction
  • Participation in a diversion or deferral program
  • Expunged, judicially dismissed, invalidated or otherwise inoperative convictions
  • Juvenile records
  • A conviction more than 7 years old
  • An infraction

If you are denied housing:

The housing provider must:

  • Give you a copy of the background report
  • Tell you which conviction or unresolved arrest is the basis for the potential denial 

You have 14 days to respond to show that you shouldn’t be denied housing. You can respond by:

  • Pointing out any inaccuracies in the report
  • Providing evidence of rehabilitation, including:
    • satisfying parole/probation
    • receiving education/training
    • participating in alcohol/drug treatment programs
    • letters of recommendation
    • the age you were convicted
  • Explaining any mitigating factors about the circumstances of the conviction, including:
    • physical or emotional abuse
    • coercion
    • untreated abuse/mental illness

If an affordable housing provider does not comply with the FCO:

Call the Human Rights Commission at (415) 252-2500 or email for more information or to file a complaint. Complaints must be filed within 60 days of the FCO violation. Affordable housing providers are not allowed to retaliate against you for filing a Fair Chance Ordinance complaint.

The FCO also protects applicants and employees from discrimination in the workplace; contact the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to file a complaint or get more information about the FCO employment protections.

Last updated May 19, 2022