Fair Housing for People with a Criminal History

By PropertyClub Team
Oct 12th 2020
In our world, it’s all too common for people with a criminal history to receive discrimination when applying for a place to rent. Though it still happens today, HUD has taken actions to ensure that people with a criminal history have a fair opportunity at housing. But, what does this act mean for you?

We’re here to help! In this piece, we’ll talk about fair housing for people with a criminal history, forms of discrimination, and how to prepare for potential housing trouble. So let’s jump right in to help you prepare!

hash-markCan You Be Denied Housing Due to a Criminal Record? 

A criminal record can seem like a permanent stain on your life. There’s one question many felons have when integrating back into the world - can you be denied housing due to a criminal record?

Although there are reasons you can be denied housing for a criminal record, most of the time it’s a form of discrimination. Unfortunately, many people with criminal records have minimal protection against this denial.

You can be denied housing due to a criminal record if:

  • The landlord provides sufficient and substantial evidence for their denial
  • The housing policy proves a potential threat

These two reasons can lead to a denial of housing.

The HUD has worked to protect those with a criminal background, preventing discrimination under some criteria. We’ll dive into HUD’s criminal background rule next.

hash-markHUD’s Criminal Background Rule

HUD’s criminal background rule is based on a legal statement known as the Fair Housing Act. This act prohibits discrimination in housing based on a few criteria. These criteria are known as ‘protected classes.’

Some examples of protected classes include:

  • Race
  • Color 
  • Nation origin
  • Religion
  • Sex 
  • Family Status 
  • Disability

These protected classes cannot legally receive discrimination when dealing with housing.

HUD added guidelines for people with a criminal background. These guidelines are to be used whenever a case of potential discrimination arises in a housing situation.

The alterations to the Fair Housing Act for those with a criminal background include prohibiting landlords from:

  • Denying a home based on arrest records
  • Putting blanket bans on people with a criminal history
  • Doing inconsistent background checks on people they deem suspicious

Landlords are also required to:

  • Evaluate crime case-by-case, considering both crime severity and the time that has passed since it was committed
  • Decide with facts, not assumed or perceived threat

These work together to give those with a criminal background a fair shot at housing.

Although discrimination still happens, the Fair Housing Act makes it better. Ensure you know what constitutes discrimination so you can bring it to the attention of HUD if a case arises.

hash-markWhat is Considered Discrimination?

We’ve talked about what protections exist against discrimination when it comes to housing, but it can be tricky to determine what discrimination is without a visual example.

There are many examples of discrimination that have occurred in the world. A few examples include:

  • A housing provider that automatically discards applications from those who have stated that they were once a convicted felon
  • A housing provider that utilizes a criminal record to discriminate against something else, like race or sex
  • A housing provider who denies a person with a drug history but has undergone rehabilitation and has proof

These are all examples of discrimination with a criminal history.

If you notice anything like these examples when you apply for a home, bring it to the attention of HUD. They can help you pursue further action.

hash-markHow to Prepare for Potential Housing Trouble

So, how do you prepare for potential housing trouble that might come up if you have a criminal background? There are a few actions you can take to minimize what may come. Being ready ahead of time is the best way to combat discrimination, even if the housing provider had no intent to discriminate.

To prepare for everything, you should:

  • Be upfront about your background
  • Reveal what you have done since then to change
  • Convince the landlord of your shift to the present

These actions will help your case.

If you’re upfront and friendly about what you’ve gone through, a landlord will be more likely to reciprocate the feeling. Give it your best shot with an honest and upbeat attitude.