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Can my application for housing be denied because I have a criminal record?

Housing providers cannot automatically deny applications for housing based on a person having a criminal record.

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and nearly one-third of all people living in the U.S. have a criminal record. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) observed that Black and Hispanic Americans are arrested, convicted and incarcerated at higher rates than the general population. HUD also found that many landlords will not allow people to rent if they have a criminal record-sometimes based only on an arrest record.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on: race or color; religion; national origin; familial status; disability or handicap, or sex. HUD decided that using broad rules that exclude all tenants with criminal records has a discriminatory effect, and so can violate Fair Housing Laws. A U.S. Supreme Court opinion supports this position.

Based on HUD’s decision, housing providers cannot use broad exclusions, and instead must make individualized determinations about whether a person’s criminal record may disqualify the applicant for housing.

A person denied admission to federally subsidized housing based on a criminal record should request a hearing to challenge the decision. People can also call Legal Aid to apply for help at 1-888-817-3777

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