In recent years, a growing number of landlords have been denying apartment rentals to certain applicants. This is called discrimination and has a disproportionate impact on people of color.
If you have a misdemeanor on your criminal record, it may be difficult to get an apartment. However, there are ways to overcome this hurdle.
Non-discrimination laws don’t apply to criminal convictions
Non-discrimination laws protect people from discrimination based on gender, race, religion, nationality, ancestry, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or individual political opinion. Often, these laws are referred to as anti-discrimination laws because they prohibit discrimination against certain groups in various areas of life, such as housing, education, employment, and public accommodations.
In the United States, non-discrimination laws have been in place since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, some states, such as New York, have carved out exceptions to the law that allow employers to discriminate against applicants or employees if they have criminal convictions in an area related to the job that they are seeking. The EEOC has also argued that criminal record exclusions can violate Title VII if they have disparate impacts based on race and national origin.
Whether or not an employer can deny an applicant or employee employment based on their criminal history depends on many factors, such as the nature of the crime, the length of time that has passed since the conviction, and the public policy interests of the employer in hiring those with a previous criminal conviction. In addition, an employer can be liable for a discrimination claim if it acts with knowledge that it is prohibited by state or federal law from discriminating against applicants or employees based on a criminal conviction.
Some states, such as Massachusetts, have a law that requires employers to evaluate applicants based on their abilities and qualifications, not just their criminal records. This law makes Massachusetts a stronger state and prevents discrimination against people living with a criminal record.
Other states have statutory bans on employers discriminating against people who have past criminal convictions, such as in nursing, childcare and home health care. These bans can disproportionately impact women of color who are often concentrated in these fields.
These statutes make it illegal for an employer to disqualify an applicant based on their criminal history unless the offense was a violation of a law that is directly related to the job, or if the applicant poses an unreasonable risk to the public. Despite this law, it is still very common for people with minor and even old convictions to be denied jobs.
This is why it is important to understand how the law in your state applies to your situation. You can find out more about your rights in the state you live in by reading the sections below.
In addition to the laws mentioned above, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued an Enforcement Guidance that sets out how employers can use criminal records for hiring, retention and promotions without violating Title VII. This guidance is important for all employers, but it may particularly be helpful to small businesses.
If you are a person of color or someone who has a prior criminal conviction, it is critical to seek legal help from an attorney. A good lawyer can ensure that you understand your rights and that you get the justice that you deserve.
Landlords can deny you based on your criminal record
Having a criminal record can make it difficult to find an apartment and even get a job. In addition, it can prevent you from receiving monetary assistance or getting credit and may keep you from getting into college. It can also impact how you are treated by others in your community and your credibility as a person.
Landlords must follow federal and state laws when screening tenants. They must also be nondiscriminatory when using an applicant’s criminal history in their decision to accept or reject a rental application.
HUD does not specifically protect convicted felons or persons with criminal records from discrimination, but in a 2016 interpretation of the Fair Housing Act, landlords are not allowed to deny an individual with a criminal record housing if they can prove that their policy is justified and nondiscriminatory. In order to demonstrate a fair housing policy, landlords must look at the circumstances of the crime and how it affects the ability of the tenant to pay rent or how the crime could put their property at risk.
The Department of Justice says that a landlord may only deny an applicant with a criminal record if they can show that the convictions are a direct threat to their safety or the security of their properties. Additionally, landlords must consider how recent the offense is and how it may affect the ability of the tenant to pay rent.
If a crime occurred a long time ago, it is harder to justify denying the applicant based on their criminal record, and the tenant would have to prove that they will not cause problems in the rental property. However, HUD still says that a landlord can refuse to rent to an applicant if the criminal conviction is recent and if it would endanger the safety of the rental property or the tenants.
New York state has recently passed a law that makes it illegal for landlords to ask about a person’s criminal history until they’ve conditionally approved their application. The law is aimed at giving formerly incarcerated people a chance to live in New York City without worrying about being denied housing because of their criminal history.
This change in state law is expected to help thousands of formerly incarcerated New Yorkers. It’s one of the most broad laws in the country, and advocates say it will be a great help for those who are trying to rebuild their lives after incarceration.
In the long run, a change like this is important to helping former inmates live safely and independently. It’s also a good step toward helping a more diverse population of residents in the state.
For many, this will mean renting from smaller landlords. These owners often have more personal relationships with their tenants than larger property managers.
Landlords can reject you based on your criminal record
If you are looking for an apartment, it is important to understand that many landlords have policies against renting to people with misdemeanors. These policies can be a legal way for landlords to protect themselves and other tenants in the building from threats or dangers. However, they can also be discriminatory and violate the law.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued new guidelines to help landlords navigate this tricky area. They warn that blanket refusals to rent to individuals based on their criminal histories are likely to be discriminatory and a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
In order to avoid violating the law, HUD advises that a landlord must prove that their policy is not discriminatory and necessary for another legitimate reason. In particular, the policy must be specific in stating that a landlord will not rent to those with criminal convictions that could endanger the safety of other tenants or the property.
A landlord should take into account the age at the time of the crime and how long it has been since the crime occurred. It is generally easier to justify a blanket denial to a tenant with a recent conviction than to a person with a long-past offense.
Landlords should also consider if there are any other factors that would make the person less risky to live with, such as their age at the time of the crime or their rehabilitation. In addition, a landlord should take into account if the person has been involved with a probation or parole officer or is on other court orders.
Despite these guidelines, it is still possible for landlords to reject applicants with criminal records. In fact, according to Apartment List, about one in five renters were rejected because of their criminal history in the past three years.
If you do have a criminal history, it is important to understand that you do have a right to seek recompense for your past mistakes. You should file a complaint with the Department of Fair Housing and Human Rights, or the local civil rights agency in your jurisdiction.
You should also try to find out if your state or county has any laws that prohibit landlords from considering criminal records when screening applicants for apartments. These may include “Ban the Box” laws that prevent landlords from mentioning criminal records in their application materials.
The bottom line is that if you have a criminal record, you can still obtain an apartment and get the housing you need to live. But you should be aware that it can be difficult to overcome your past.
If you have a misdemeanor on your record and you have a good job, a positive rental history, and references from other landlords, you might be able to convince a landlord to allow you to rent an apartment. You should also be sure to have a lawyer with experience in discrimination cases on your side.