Need to Know!

Tenant Screening – Washington Legislature Further Limits Access to Juvenile Records

April 4, 2014 5:34 pm

The Washington legislature passed (and the governor signed)HB 1651, further limiting access to juvenile records for tenant screening purposes.

SB 1651 modifies RCW 13.50 by adding a section that requires the court to hold regular “sealing hearings” and to “administratively seal” juvenile court records at the first such meeting after “…the latest of the following events:

  1. The respondent’s eighteenth birthday;
  2. Anticipated completion of respondents probation, if ordered; <and>
  3. Anticipated release from confinement.”

Under the new law, the court shall enter a written order sealing an individuals juvenile court record if one of the offenses is not at the time of the offense:

  1. A Most Serious Offense, as defined in RCW 9.94A.30;/li>
  2. A sex offense under chapter 9A.44 RCW; or
  3. A drug offense, as defined in RCW 9.94.030 – which in turn refers to RCW 69.50 (the Uniform Controlled Substances Act)

RCW 9.94A.030 defines “Most Serious Offense” as any of the following felonies or a felony attempt to commit any of the following:
(a) Any felony defined under any law as a class A felony or criminal solicitation of or criminal conspiracy to commit a class A felony;
(b) Assault in the second degree;
(c) Assault of a child in the second degree;
     (d) Child molestation in the second degree;
     (e) Controlled substance homicide;
     (f) Extortion in the first degree;
     (g) Incest when committed against a child under age
     (h) Indecent liberties;
     (i) Kidnapping in the second degree;
     (j) Leading organized crime;
     (k) Manslaughter in the first degree;
     (l) Manslaughter in the second degree;
     (m) Promoting prostitution in the first degree;
     (n) Rape in the third degree;
     (o) Robbery in the second degree;
     (p) Sexual exploitation;
     (q) Vehicular assault, when caused by the operation or driving of a vehicle by a person while under the influence of intoxicating
liquor or any drug or by the operation or driving of a vehicle in a reckless manner;
     (r) Vehicular homicide, when proximately caused by the driving of any vehicle by any person while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug as defined by RCW 46.61.502, or by the operation of any vehicle in a reckless manner;
     (s) Any other class B felony offense with a finding of sexual motivation;
     (t) Any other felony with a deadly weapon verdict under RCW 9.94A.825;
     (u) Any felony offense in effect at any time prior to December 2, 1993, that is comparable to a most serious offense under this
subsection, or any federal or out-of-state conviction for an offense that under the laws of this state would be a felony classified as a most serious offense under this subsection;
     (v)(i) A prior conviction for indecent liberties under RCW 9A.44.100(1) (a), (b), and (c), chapter 260, Laws of 1975 1st ex. sess. as it existed until
July 1, 1979, RCW 9A.44.100(1) (a), (b), and (c) as it existed from July 1, 1979, until June 11, 1986, and RCW 9A.44.100(1) (a), (b), and (d) as it existed from June 11, 1986, until July 1, 1988;
     (ii) A prior conviction for indecent liberties under RCW 9A.44.100(1)(c) as it existed from June 11, 1986, until July 1, 1988, if: (A) The crime was committed against a child under the age of fourteen; or (B) the relationship between the victim and perpetrator is included in the definition of indecent
liberties under RCW 9A.44.100 (1)(c) as it existed from July 1, 1988, through July 27, 1997, or RCW 9A.44.100 (1) (d) or (e) as it existed from July 25, 1993, through July 27, 1997;
     (w) Any out-of-state conviction for a felony offense with a finding of sexual motivation if the minimum sentence imposed was ten
years or more; provided that the out-of-state felony offense must be comparable to a felony offense under this title and Title 9A RCW and the out-of-state definition of sexual motivation must be comparable to the definition of sexual motivation.

Suffice it to say, that the list of exceptions to the sealing requirement in HB 1651 is extensive and includes the majority of the offenses we (as landlords) consider as part of the tenant screening process.  Recall, however, that there are two existing provisions in Washington law that apply to the exceptions.

RCW 13.50.050 states that “The court shall grant any
motion to seal records for Class A offenses if:

  1. Since the date of release from confinement, including full-time residential treatment, if any, or entry of disposition, the person has spent five consecutive years in the community without committing any offense or crime that subsequently results in adjudication or conviction;
  2. No proceeding is pending against the “moving party” seeking conviction of a juvenile or criminal offense;
  3. No proceeding is pending seeking formation of a diversion agreement with that person;
  4. The person is no longer required to register as a sex offender;
  5. The person has not been convicted of rape in the first degree…; and
  6. Full restitution has been paid.

Sealing records pursuant to RCW 13.50.050 reduces reporting of Class A offenses from seven years to five years, Class B and C offenses to two years.

Washington’s Fair Credit Reporting Act (RCW 19.182) further prohibits reporting of juvenile records (of all kinds) by tenant and employee screening companies when the subject of the report reaches 21 years of age.  This provision may be preempted by federal law.

Ultimately, the impact of HB 1651 on landlords is limited.  The list of exceptions found in the definition of Most Serious Offense, combined with the various sex and drug offenses is very comprehensive – covering most (if not all) of the offenses we are most concerned about.  Many that remain fall into the category of youthful indiscretion – and probably should be ignored.  Limiting reporting of (access to) Class A juvenile offenses to five (versus seven) years may be inconsequential as well.  Prohibiting reporting of juvenile offenses of all kinds at 21 years of age is another matter.

The legal and regulatory environment for tenant and employee screening is growing increasingly hostile.  Yet the need to thoroughly vet prospective residents (and employees) remains.  Visit Moco Incorporated or for more information on this important topic.

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