Why a criminal record isn’t always enough to reject an applicant

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Professionally dressed man ripping a contract in two

05/11/2016 | Author: TAR Legal Staff

New guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says that a policy of refusing to rent to anybody with a criminal record could be discrimination.

The reasoning behind this?

The Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have a discriminatory effect on protected classes. HUD says that because of racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely to disproportionately affect African Americans and Hispanics. That doesn’t mean you can’t consider criminal history information when making housing decisions, but arbitrary and broad criminal history-related bans may violate the Fair Housing Act.  

Get more information on this from NAR, including a suggested list of do’s and don’ts for your housing policies and practices. Also, NPR offers an explanation of the ruling in more accessible language.

Categories: Property Management
Tags: hud, legal, fair housing act


Shanisha Johnson on 05/17/2016

I agree with the ruling. Some people have made mistakes in their past and some people will continue to make mistakes. Each case is different and therefore there should be no blanket policy for applicants/tenants. Unfortunately we have landlords that have never lived closed to poor or have never been caught in a crime and for that reason we need the government to make sure all consideration is fair!!!!

Kell on 05/14/2016

I dont think most ppl read the new rule. It says you can not have blanket policy that prohibits ALL criminal records. I am an apartment locator and realtor. In the apt industry most managements have a one size fits all policy, no crimal history what so ever. They can deny a client just for being arrested, even before they go to trial. That really is stupid. Some ( not most) people arested are not gulity, but are denide just because they have an arest on their record. This blanket one size fits all policy is rediculous.  I had a client with a 30 year old felony for MAIL FRAUD for goodness sake!  He was denide. How does the public expect any ex criminal to reform?? Should we just have a death penalty for anyone ever arested? Because it is a death sentnce for anyone who can not find housing. He ended up buying a house because mortgate lenders don’t care about criminal history.
I used to live next door to a pedifile, we lived 1 block from an elem school. I found out he was a registered sex offender from the county records. Easy to look up.
The neighboorhood was an upper middle class area. The reson he was able to live there is he BOUGHT the house. If he had rented it he would not have lived there. 
The point of this new rule is you CAN discriminate if they have a dangerous crime on their back ground, but not if it was a NON VILOENT crime…..
Remember, most pedifiles are ppl you already know.
Read the new law again. It says you CAN and actualy MUST deny ppl with violent backgounds…
And for all you realtors saying “it’s my house and the gov can not tell me who to rent to”, watch yourself. That was what ppl said about race, religion, color, sex and national origin before the fair housing act was instated in 1968. So YES the GOV can tell you what to do with your house…

Diana Clary on 05/13/2016

HUD has lost their mind!  So much for individual property rights.

Perry Kelly on 05/13/2016

Upon reading all the comments and noting that some people feel it is unfair to consider the possibility that convicted criminals may not be the best fit for their community, I have come to the conclusion that those property managers who do think criminals would be an asset should proudly post a sign on their entry door reading “Rapists, child molesters, murderers, thieves are welcome here!” and in smaller print “Law abiding citizens will also be considered as well”. Any chance your occupancy rate will increase when all of your customers know your views towards criminals? I think the liberals will hide their views from their current and potential renters and keep posting liberal views on sites like this where a tenant or potential tenant can’t see it.

Judy Doyle on 05/13/2016

Sorry. but at 72 year s young, female, white ( and discriminated against by those in power and of the black race), and still working and enjoying every bit of the challenges of the real estate world.  (I carry a machete for protection from dogs).  But now I will need to carry a hand gun to protect me from felons?  I don’t think so.  Why should I put myself in harms way in the first place, because you have a bleeding heart for someone who does not care to abide by the law in the beginning.  Why should I take the chance of thinking that person has changed their ways?
I understand a simple felony for bad checks, something I can over come by not accepting checks from them.  But a sex offender, a killer,  some one who has assaulted a person????  Who are you to tell me they will never do it again. 
I love my grand children, and I do my best to keep safe, sound and secure.  And that means not dealing with people who I would not live with or go for a visit.

  You are taking our lives into your hands when you mandate we take on convicted felons to show vacant homes, some without lights, sometimes at dusk.
  Are you willing to setup a trust fund for our lost lives and the ones we leave behind?
  Please allow us to govern our own lives and keep ourselves protected by making good decisions. 

You are putting laws into effect to keep us from protecting the innocent hard working business women.
You are criminal in your thinking.

John Tampazopoulos on 05/13/2016

This policy is similar to the other initiatives that the Obama administration and DOJ is pushing down our throats as part of transforming America and leaving behind a legacy: moving Section 8 housing into superb, focusing on transgender bathrooms, the CFPB and on and on…

Michael Beck on 05/13/2016

Just to clarify in case some of my comments were misunderstood.  I have specialized in property management for over 15 years, leasing hundreds of homes. We manage over 150. I, we, have always been willing to accept applicants with previous criminal history, and have many times.  Let me repeat, have many times. The point here is that this is yet another dictate from the fed. Some all knowing, all seeing, omnipotent, bureaucratic caliphate. Not whether this is a good idea or bad idea. They simply have no right to do this. Each individual applicant is, and must, be judged on their merit. Not from what some fed pencil pusher deems is fair. Individual property owners, property managers who have a fiduciary duty for their client, must exercise their best judgment for each case. Of course. This may be an outdated notion, but our country is different because it was founded on individual sovereign states rights, individual rights, and personal responsibility with the freedom to exercise that judgement. If we do that poorly, we will likely fail, if we do it well, we will have a better chance of success. Not to follow dictates from the self appointed king, Julian Castro, the former San Antonio Mayor, or the President.

Karen Dixon on 05/13/2016

Frank- I did read all of the article and the ruling.  What I will say is that in Texas where I am a Realtor my fiduciary is to the owner not the tenant.  My screening criteria is there to protect my client and in no way is bigotry.  You should remember that your fiduciary is dependent on who you have a relationship with.  Property Management is a tough part of real estate and must be handled with the most care possible.  If my screening criteria eliminates just one bad tenant for my owner then I have done my job to the best of my ability.  As a property manager we must evaluate the entire application of which part of that is criminal background especially with the current rate of recidivism of offenders.

J.R. on 05/13/2016

Stench requires discriminition

Leslie on 05/12/2016

I wish there were a “LIKE” button on comments.  While I would accept someone with a criminal background for some crimes….. Sorry Folks….. I would not accept violent offenders, child molesters or thieves. Call me ignorant if you wish.  Really? You want to call out code of ethics? Let’s get real here….

Scott on 05/12/2016


How many properties do you manage?
How many do you own?

Frank Candelaria on 05/12/2016

Twenty six comments and my guess is that maybe two may have taken the time to read the “information from the NAR” or the “NRP explanation of the ruling”.
I refuse to accept that these hostile and intolerant remarks represent the majority of the Realtor professionals in Texas. 
Read the Code of Ethics…fairness, common sense and good business, or go find a new profession. 
Bigotry has no place in Texas Real Estate business.

Sam Maropis on 05/12/2016

I have always been open to renting to folks with a criminal background, the tenants become some of my best tenants. Some folks with a criminal record make great tenants. I only pick the ones that are non-violent and fit all of the other normal criteria of a good renters, then look at this group of folks. If you want great tenants that are interested in staying long term and take care of your property and pay on time, some of these folks with a criminal background are the ones to pick.

But then again, if you are happy with tenants moving all of the time, giving you a headache all of the time and not needing you, hence loyal to you, then stay with your foolish non-criminal backgrounds.

After all, does not USA have the most folks locked up in the world, maybe some of those folks can make great tenants if you only give them a chance.

Leslie on 05/12/2016

So as Realtors representing clients, we go through a criminal background check and even fingerprinted. This is absurd. I am also a landlord and can discriminate based on criminal history if I want to and I will advise my clients the same.

walt on 05/12/2016

this is my property and I will rent to whomever I decide and the government
can go get fornicated

David Kusko on 05/12/2016

Since HUD likes these felons so much, maybe they should just purchase some rental properties and rent to them and call it housing for the offsite penitent. ...or the HUD penitentiary.  Locating it near a regular penitentiary would also be a good idea (Like a halfway house). ..so they could visit their friends on the inside…and provide services to them like laundry, food, etc. as it’ll be tough for them to find jobs on the outside when they get out.
Forcing them into a rental home when good, hard working non-criminals have a tough time affording a home is a ridiculous injustice to society and a hardship and danger to landlords that have the right to choose who lives in their property, at least from a criminal standpoint. Without taking violent criminals, my life has been threatened verbally, personally, and in writing from crazy tenants….this would make the risk of death infinitely worse. They’ve proved their unworthiness and I’ve taken people with less violent crimes from a longer time period provided credit is high but having the government take jurisdiction over this is overstepping their bounds. It’s bad enough having felons moving in with relatives and having to deal with them that way.

Monika Simmons on 05/12/2016

You’ve got to be kidding me?  So since everyone is pushing equality for all, even criminals, then the restrictions on pit bulls in rental properties and higher renter’s insurance premiums need to be banned as they discriminate also. So sick of how everything is going in our country right now.

RJ Eaton on 05/12/2016

If I was a ‘minority’, I would be furious!! Clearly, this means they believe that there are more ‘minority’ offenders than ‘non-minority’.  How insulting!! Having been in the property management business fulltime for over 20 years, I can tell you that there is no race/color/ethnic group that is worse than another, but have learned the hard way that criminal history DOES matter. I believe that people deserve a second chance, but it isn’t in my client’s best interest to lease to someone who has not proven they are on a different path/changed their ways!

cynthia heed on 05/12/2016

What a shame we have to make business decisions in fear of our government but it has come to that.
Today I was in kangaroo code court before a judge that would not let me speak, not listen to me or allow me explain, and an code inspector that took an oath to tell the truth and lied several times.

Frank Garcia on 05/12/2016

Dawn Kerr:  Who are you kidding? Do you own rental properties? What kind of futile argument are you presenting? Focus on the REAL words…arbitrary and broad criminal history-related bans may violate the Fair Housing Act. In other words, you may not refuse someone housing even if they committed a heinous act. WAKE UP AMERICA!

Dick Richardson on 05/12/2016

Michael Beck hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately,  with almost 50% of todays
kids graduating either completely illiterate or unable to read above a 5th grade
level then we are headed toward a generational catastrophe sponsored by our
government operated school system.  Being unable to read, these citizens will
believe whatever the bureaucrats tell them is “right” which seems to be the
principal goal of the government operated school system. Unless someone can
invent a computer that will transfer information directly to our brains then reading
is the most efficient and freedom oriented method to acquire new info - if you cannot
read fast, understand what you read and remember what you read then you will have
a very limited prognosis for success and pursuit of happiness in the 21st Century,
except for a government, union protected job as a HUD Tenant Advocate smile High
competency in reading should be pursued by shools with the same or HIGHER vigor
with which they pursue the teaching of football, band, etc.

Michael Beck on 05/12/2016

Notice the carefully worded phrases, “New guidance”, “HUD says”. “They have decided”. This is fine example of the top down leviathan Federal Government that makes rules, and decisions, with the weight of law. Totally contrary to the actual LAW as written in the US Constitution. HUD cannot make law. This is the fault of every Speaker of the House of Representatives that has not done their job and exercised authority over the creation of law, which is their entire reason for being. The office of Speaker Paul Ryan must be shown the full weight and influence of the National Association of Realtors, and the associations in each state, city and county. How about it NAR, TAR, CCAR? You constantly ask us for never ending donations, are you going to stand up and put OUR money where YOUR mouths are? Oh, and just wait until the CRIMINAL prosecutions start coming down. Look out Brokers! Wait until you are required to deal with, and pay commissions to the new HUD Tenant Advocates with real estate agent authority, yet they likely won’t be required to hold licenses, like you do. This is a continuing effort to erase the very idea of Private Property. It is simply another step in the process of eliminating any private ownership of anything and exercise federal control over everything. Your money, your home, your retirement savings, your health care decisions, your person. Welcome to 1984 Gorge Orwell fans.

James on 05/12/2016

Sorry about this, whiners, hate to burst your collective bubbles, but “Whites” aren’t a protected class. Education needed.

Scott stephan on 05/12/2016

Please everyone….vote for someone this election year that doesn’t believe as Hillary and her sidekick (Julian Castro - HUD).  The other option -though distasteful - has to be better than perpetuation this kind on nonsense.

Karen Bell on 05/12/2016

that is ridiculous!

Ken Lampton on 05/12/2016

Reminds me of the Medieval Era, with all the theological debates about “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

Glenda on 05/12/2016

All I can say is this appears to be more racism against WHITE’S one more time.

If one does the crime, they must pay the time.  If one could check the records of 99% of these criminals, they are repeat offenders & they already knew before they committed the crime what comes with that behavior.  Now the government wants to give them multiple chances just because they are Black or Hispanic.  Aiding these criminals by forcing good citizens to rent to them, is nothing more than discrimination against good citizens.  In my opinion, if an individual is a one time offender & the crime is something small,  I don’t see a problem with giving that individual a helping hand if they have already had some years of proving they have changed.  This administration has done nothing more than accommodate people who have zero care for others & in doing so, has only created more crime.  Once a crime is validated & approved, the offender is mostly likely not to change their behavior.  If America could get back to real punishment for offenders, it could help save their lives & cause a turn around for criminals.  Instead, attorneys consistently defend the crime even when it is against their own morals —-  all for the dollar.  It could be people could get back to real integrity & honesty in our world.  Punishment against these criminals generally causes a change in their lives, if they are real people who have remorse for their crimes.  When we force good citizens to give the criminals what they want,  I feel that is the time when good citizens better be looking over their shoulder at all times.  This is the new, exciting society that has been forced upon all of us by this rotten administration.  I’m not apologizing for my comments.  I believe only good citizens create more good citizens, not someone defending the criminals in their crimes, thinking they are really going to change.  Stats show only 2% of criminals change.

Darrell Drouillard on 05/12/2016

I almost spit out my drink….that is hilarious. Now it’s racist to have a policy that prohibits application approval for any prospective tenant that has a history of violent crimes….or drug offenses….or felonies. The only way that would be racist is if HUD thinks all minorities are criminals. Another instance Big Brother overstepping.

Bryan waser on 05/12/2016

Criminals are not a protected class. Really doubt it would stand up in court.

Donna Holman on 05/12/2016

As long as landlords have the same criteria for all applicants then I don’t see how this can be discrimination or in any way a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

LMitchell on 05/12/2016

This is crazy. Another reason we are getting out of property management

shirley jennings on 05/12/2016

I think the government is forgetting who’s house it is.  What happen to “personal property” Some of the time the criminals have other factors that may disqualify them as well such as credit issues, lack of good references etc.  If they are truly reformed then they will have those things in order and will qualify.

Gloria A. Gonzales on 05/12/2016

Government is over reaching, AGAIN !

Charlie Still on 05/12/2016

While I share the altruistic goal of allowing people who make poor decisions to rebuild their lives, it’s a far leap from encouraging that sort of positive behavior to deciding that individuals with a criminal history have a “right” for that history not to be considered.  Certainly the type offense and how far in the past the crime(s) were committed are considerations, but I’m not found of the federal government telling private citizens they cannot consider that part of their background as a potential deal breaker.  With the high recidivism rates among those with criminal backgrounds, skepticism by property owners is certainly understandable.  Again, we can & should encourage opportunities for those with a criminal past to rebuild their lives, & I’m happy to do my part, but this a little heavy handed.

Dawn Kerr on 05/11/2016

It’s about time changes are made.  There are such a wide variety of crime.  How can we ever expect people to pay a debt to society & lead a reformed life if we refuse to give them the right to housing & jobs?  A non-forgiving system society breeds repeat offenders.

R. Will Fairchild on 05/11/2016

The reason this might disproportionately affect African Americans and Hispanics is the same reason African Americans and Hispanics account for over 80% of the prison population in the United States.

Charlie Still on 05/11/2016

Isn’t it a little racist for HUD to suggest that excluding convicted criminals will significantly impact African American & Hispanics’ access to housing?  Seriously?  I have leased to numerous minorities who have no issue clearing that hurdle.  Wow.

Karen Dixon on 05/11/2016

When did criminals become a protected class?  I do not believe any landlord should be forced to take criminals into their personal homes.  All this will accomplish is to raise the standards to rent in other categories which will impact lower income individuals across the board.  Our company has already started to consider raising our qualifying standards and this will only expedite the process.  We make exceptions for very old non-violent issues but nothing newer and nothing where they are still on parole or probation.  Criminals make choices and should understand that it is something they will have to overcome over years and it may be difficult for quite some time.  This is just more of the societal shift to people not being responsible for their actions.

Carla Henry on 05/11/2016

Poor criminals.  The child molesters can now live next to a school or in a subdivision with a playground?  A rapist or murderer can be your next door neighbor?  All because they may be black or Hispanic?  This does not seem right to me.  My company forgives some criminal behavior if it is non violent, but I think we would be remiss to rent to violent criminals potentially helping them to find their next victims.

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