HUD Tells Landlords to Give Ex-Cons a Chance

April 5, 2016

Private landlords cannot implement blanket bans on would-be renters with an arrest or criminal record. If so, they are in violation of the Fair Housing Act and can face penalties or a lawsuit for discrimination, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD Secretary Julián Castro issued guidance on Monday about how fair housing laws apply to those with criminal records. While the group is not explicitly protected by the Fair Housing Act, there are certain circumstances that landlords must follow when screening possible tenants.

When an applicant has a conviction, property owners must prove that the exclusion is justified, HUD notes. HUD’s guidance reads: “Policies that exclude persons based on criminal history must be tailored to serve the housing provider’s substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest and take into consideration such factors as the type of the crime and the length of the time since conviction.”

“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,” 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.”

The guidance emphasizes to landlords that “blanket bans” are illegal. HUD says that landlords may need to revise their screening policies in light of the new guidance.

Source: “Federal Housing Officials Warn Against Blanket Bans of Ex-Offenders,” The New York Times (April 4, 2016)