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.