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Is it Legal to Deny Housing to Someone With a Criminal Background?

While denying housing due a potential renter’s criminal background is a form of discrimination, unfortunately, there is likely no legal protection against it. Overcoming life’s challenges or mistakes can be difficult; someone with a criminal record may have more trouble getting hired, going to school, and even obtaining housing. This is because even if a potential renter has steady income and good credit, it may be hard for a landlord to rent out the place if the person has a criminal history. 

Discrimination Under the Law

Only specific kinds of discrmiantion are illegal under the law. These include under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) such as discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, family status and disability. Many states across the nation have added other protected classes into their state laws including gender and sexual orientation. Convicted felons no matter how long ago the charge was, however, are not currently on these lists. 

Because background and credit checks are typical in the residential rental application process, those with criminal histories are at a disadvantage. According to MySmartMove.com, 44% of landlords will not turn a blind eye to a criminal background when deciding on a tenant for their property. That being said, there are ways to find a rental if you or someone you know is going through this issue. 

What You Can Do

The first step is to search for rentals that do not perform background checks — there are some out there. You can also link up with a trusted real estate agent who specializes in residential rentals. Other things you can do include:

  • Look for apartments being rented out by individual landlords versus those posted by management companies. Having a face-to-face conversation with the property owner, along with providing documentation to support your case, can help you land a place to stay;
  • Disclosing the truth is still the best option. With the internet and social media so easily available, it is difficult to get away with not telling the truth. Likewise, lying on a rental application will surely get you immediately rejected as a possible tenant or possibly getting evicted after moving in if the truth comes out;
  • Know your rights and the law. In some states, a background check does not go back more than seven years. So, if your conviction will not appear on the search, there is no need to disclose it unless you are specifically asked. That being said, some states do allow a landlord to deny housing to a potential tenant based on a very old conviction;
  • Tell your success story to ease any hesitations. Be prepared to provide documentation demonstrating your good character. This can include letters from friends, employers, family members, all showing how you have pushed to move your life forward. This can show you are responsible and will not cause issues to your potential landlord;
  • Take advantage of resources available to you. Convicted felons can get housing assistance in every state.  This includes non-profit organizations that help felons get back on their feet, such as post-release housing services and reentry programs.

Attorney Help

For more information about your rights under the law, or if you have been hurt in an accident, contact the skilled and experienced attorneys at H&P Law today. 

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