Feds Say Denying Housing Over Criminal Record May Be Discrimination

I’m so glad I sold my rental property.
O laughs
Via NPR: The Department of Housing and Urban Development is making it easier for people with criminal records to find housing.
In new guidance, released Monday, HUD tells landlords and home sellers that turning down tenants or buyers based on their criminal records may violate the Fair Housing Act.
Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African-Americans and Hispanics.
People with criminal records aren’t a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, and the guidance from HUD’s general counsel says that in some cases, turning down an individual tenant because of his or her record can be legally justified. But blanket policies of refusing to rent to anybody with a criminal record are de facto discrimination, the department says — because of the systemic disparities of the American criminal justice system.
One in four Americans has a criminal record, as NPR’s Carrie Johnson has reported. Those records can include arrests that never led to convictions, as well as convictions for a wide range of crimes — from petty to serious — that may have happened decades ago.
A record can make it hard to find a job — or a home. Many private landlords and public housing projects have policies against renting to people with criminal records.
Take Melvin Lofton, who spoke with NPR’s Cheryl Corley. Lofton was convicted of burglary and theft when he was in his 20s; now he’s 51. He lives with his mom, and says it would be hard to find housing without that family connection. He remembers one time when he tried to rent a home in a trailer park.
“I was at work and the guy called me and told me to come pick up my keys. So I was happy. I got a place to stay,” Lofton says. “So then … 45 to 50 minutes later he calls and says, ‘Is there something you’re not telling me?’ and I say, ‘No, what is there?’ And he says, ‘You didn’t tell me you had a background.’ ” Lofton had been out of prison for 20 years at the time, Cheryl reports.
HUD’s new guidance warns that landlords could be breaking the law when they refuse to rent to people with criminal records — even if they have no intention to discriminate — because such a policy would likely have a disproportionate impact on African-American and Hispanic applicants.

Housing Secretary Julian Castro

Housing Secretary Julian Castro


Housing Secretary Julian Castro puts it another way, NPR’s Corley reports: “When landlords refuse to rent to anyone who has an arrest record, they effectively bar the door to millions of folks of color for no good reason.”
HUD notes that whether an individual landlord’s policy has a discriminatory impact will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. But on a national level, HUD provided a list of statistics — direct from the Justice Department — demonstrating disproportionately high rates of arrest and incarceration based on race. They noted African-American men are imprisoned at a rate nearly six times that of white men, and Hispanic men at more than twice the rate of white men.
That doesn’t mean landlords are completely barred from considering criminal records — but they’d have to prove that their policy legitimately serves to protect safety or property. Saying “criminals are poor tenants” doesn’t cut it, HUD says: “Bald assertions based on generalization or stereotype” aren’t sufficient.
Barring people based just on arrest records is no good, HUD says, because arrests alone aren’t proof of guilt. And even if you only consider convictions, refusing to rent to all ex-cons — “no matter when the conviction occurred, what the underlying conduct entailed, or what the convicted person has done since then,” HUD writes — also isn’t defensible, since not all ex-cons will pose a risk to safety or property.
Instead, HUD writes, landlords should have a policy that takes into consideration what the crime was and when it happened, as well as other factors, to reduce the discriminatory impact. (The only exception is if a conviction was for manufacturing or distributing drugs.)
HUD also warns landlords that if they do intend to discriminate, and use criminal records as a cover for their actions, they can be found in violation. For instance, landlords who reject black or Hispanic applicants ostensibly because of criminal records — but accept a white tenant with a similar criminal record — could be found guilty of violating the Fair Housing Act.
Read the whole story here.
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Dr. Eowyn
Admin

More upside-down bad is good, good is bad inversion. Not only are we paying criminals not to commit crimes, now the POS’s administration is rewarding them with “non-discriminatory” public government taxpayer-subsidized housing.
BTW, that Julian Castro looks like a transgender transvestite.

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Steven Broiles
Member

This is yet another example of how our ruling class intends to throw us to the wolves. Convicts released from prison are found a room when released; There are safeguards in place to help them if they cannot get help on their own. This is a bald and naked attempt to dictate to landlords and property owners what they must do with their own property! And it puts the safety of other tenants at risk.
Our rulers are WORSE than the street criminals.

Auntie Lulu
Guest
Auntie Lulu

As the resident/owner of a four-plex, I usually rent to women, occasionally a man. I feel I screen very well as I do not wish to put at risk any of my tenants. I just evicted a woman tenant, because she moved her boyfriend (age late 50’s, and his 27 year old son.) She never said a word to me, I did not even have their names, etc. — in order to not hassle her, I gave her a 90 day no-cause notice (Oregon has changed from a 30 day to 90 day for a no-cause notice.) I felt that… Read more »

Steven Broiles
Member

Be careful, Auntie Lulu. Read up on what the tenant’s rights in your town and state are, so you don’t violate them. Then know what your rights are. Spell everything out in a lease. This way, there are no surprises. And make sure your insurance is up-to-date. This way you cover your end. Consult an attorney who specializes in this—and know what you can claim on taxes, etc., etc.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Evicting someone for not paying their rent will be “discrimination against poor people” next…

Joe
Guest
Joe

Does this mean that the criminals can move into the White House?

Dr. Eowyn
Admin

They’re already there. 😀

r3rd
Guest

I own property and I have on the rental applications “Have you been convicted of a felony if so why/when?” It has never been a problem for me, but it would not surprise me if we are not required to rent to convicted felons eventually. It’s so strange to me about the democratic party there will be someone who has done a study and discovered there are more Caucasian men who commit crimes. However, when we have something like this come up. Suddenly it’s the people of colour who are being discriminated against due to their high volume of incarceration.… Read more »