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HUD to Landlords: Stop Discriminating Against People with Criminal Records

HUD says landlords could be in violation of the Fair Housing Act if they issue blanket rejections to people with criminal records. (click/morguefile)
HUD says landlords could be in violation of the Fair Housing Act if they issue blanket rejections to people with criminal records. (click/morguefile)
April 7, 2016

SEATTLE - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or "HUD," gave new guidance to landlords this week, telling them not to reject potential tenants simply because they have criminal records.

The department added that blanket rejection of people with criminal records is a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Eric Dunn, an attorney with the Northwest Justice Project, says landlords should look more carefully at each record.

"If you ask them why they don't accept people with criminal records, I mean, they're going to say, 'Well you know, we don't want tenants that are going to steal from the neighbors or might get into fights, or that are going to be doing illegal things in our units.' And that's certainly a legitimate reason," says Dunn. "But you don't need to exclude anyone with any kind of criminal record in order to achieve that."

Dunn adds in places like Seattle where vacancy rates are extremely low, landlords can reject tenants with records and not run out of new applicants, making the housing search even harder for people who have served their time to reintegrate into their communities.

It's estimated one in four Americans has a criminal record. And because the rate is higher among minority groups, the housing rejection rate for people with records disproportionately affects minorities.

Rebecca Vallas, managing director of anti-poverty policy of the Center for American Progress, says children are also disproportionately affected.

"We find that as many as half of American children now have at least one parent with a criminal record," says Vallas. "And that having a parent with a criminal record can severely limit a child's life chances."

Around four out of five landlords use a background check to screen prospective tenants, according to the Center for American Progress.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA