HUD Puts Down the Hammer: Give Convicts A Chance, Or Else…

Criminal records can seriously hinder an opportunity to get a job, and in getting an apartment or a house, it’s not much different. Renters tend to avoid leasing to those with criminal backgrounds, but in our country, refusing to rent to those who have been behind bars, might just land you… behind bars. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, revisited the fact that they are not going to tolerate landlords banning renters with criminal records from leasing their properties.

According to HUD, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin.

HUD’s Office of General Counsel issues this guidance concerning how the Fair Housing Act applies to the use of criminal history by providers or operators of housing and real-estate related transactions. Specifically, this guidance addresses how the discriminatory effects and disparate treatment methods of proof apply in Fair Housing Act cases in which a housing provider justifies an adverse housing action – such as a refusal to rent or renew a lease – based on an individual’s criminal history.

HUD’s guidance released on April 4, 2016, states that as many as 100 million U.S. adults – or nearly one-third of the population – have a criminal record of some sort. The United States prison population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world. As of 2012, the United States accounted for only about five percent of the world’s population, yet almost one quarter of the world’s prisoners were held in American prisons. Since 2004, an average of over 650,000 individuals have been released annually from federal and state prisons, and over 95% of current inmates will be released at some point. When individuals are released from prisons and jails, their ability to access safe, secure and affordable housing is critical to their successful reentry to society. Yet many formerly incarcerated individuals, as well as individuals who were convicted but not incarcerated, encounter significant barriers to securing housing, including public and other federally-subsidized housing, because of their criminal history. In some cases, even individuals who were arrested but not convicted face difficulty in securing housing based on their prior arrest.

Neither Castro nor the lawyers who advise property management companies and tenant screening services on fair housing issues, are surprised this is happening.

“Right now, many housing providers use the fact of a conviction, any conviction, regardless of what it was for or how long ago it happened, to indefinitely bar folks from housing opportunities,” Mr. Castro said in a statement.

“Many people who are coming back to neighborhoods are only looking for a fair chance to be productive members, but blanket policies like this unfairly deny them that chance,” added Castro.

What do you think about these actions by HUD? Are you concerned about having to rent to someone with a conviction?

Read the full article here.

  • Patric Barry

    “Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or
    financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities on the
    basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or
    national origin.” However, I can discriminate outside these specific laws. For instance, I can decline to rent to a lawyer since they have a propensity to sue. How about if I decline to rent to a murderer or a violent criminal since I fear that he may have a bad day and attack me? I would not rent to a drug dealer with a record since the chances are high that he’d deal out of my property.
    I’d certainly stand up to HUD on this. They can piss and moan all that they want, but the law is specific in what is prevented from with discrimination – outside those specifics I don’t see why a landlord cannot restrict to whom he/she wishes to rent to.

  • get-it-on

    The government is woefully inept at “rehabilitating” these criminals if you look at the high rate of recidivism (85%). Yet, they have the audacity to tell landlords, “take a chance, roll the dice and let fate be you guide”. There are a myriad of other reasons to deny undesirables habitation in your investment and it shouldn’t be hard to find someone whose credit or work history is a “smidgen” (to coin a phrase from our illustrious leader) better than a convicted criminal.

  • ISC Screening

    Hud itself uses background checks to disqualify criminals from Section 8. They have a 3 and 5 year no crime policy. They need to figure out there own policy before mandating the private market to comply. Business as usual for most landlords. Just don’t have a criteria that bans crimes forever and don’t use arrest records. Most recent criminals don’t have a job history or high credit scores. When denying an applicant, deny for the totality of the background check and verifications, not just the criminal record. If you have a no crime policy for serious “person and property” crimes for the last 5 years it would be hard for HUD to find you at fault for discrimination because that is there policy.

  • Penny Sargent

    Unfortunately this includes traffic violations. Anyone ever get a fix-it ticket. It still shows on a persons credit as a criminal violation.

  • RE_Insider

    One of our readers wrote in an email to us: I do not see that this has anything to do with discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin. This is about someone’s past, potentially present or future criminal behavior. A past criminal drug history of a potential tenant could be a high risk for a landlord. Most often, landlords are held responsible for tenants dealing drugs on the property. If a convict started a meth lab in a landlords property it would contaminate the house.

    You could face fines for allowing the illegal activity to continue to occur

    You could face criminal penalties for knowingly allowing the illegal activity to occur

    The rental property can be confiscated by the government, but this is only in extreme cases

    In addition to criminal penalties, there can be other negative consequences for landlords. These can include:

    Rental property value can drop, thus making it hard to find and keep tenants

    If a tenant or anyone else in the neighborhood is injured or annoyed by the drug dealing, you could be sued on the grounds that the rental property constitutes a public nuisance that threatens public safety and morals.

    This is a lot of burden for landlords to take the high risk of their property being damaged by someone that has a criminal record especially when it comes to drugs.