As Fair Housing Month comes to an end, everyone should review the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2016 guidance, “Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions.”
This advice was intended to end the practice of landlords denying applicants based on a criminal record when the denial might violate the Fair Housing Act.
While this guidance should be read in its entirety, there are two important points to emphasize. Landlords should not deny housing based on an arrest alone, as arrests without convictions do not justify the denial. This guidance also prevents the use of blanket restrictions related to certain types of convictions. Accordingly, convictions should be considered on a case-by-case basis, in light of mitigating factors, such as the person’s age at the time a crime was committed, evidence of good behavior since the crime was committed, and how long ago the conviction occurred.
County board of developmental disabilities staff and providers who assist people with disabilities with the location of housing may be able to utilize this guidance in combination with the reasonable accommodation process to challenge denials based on criminal background checks.