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I was denied public housing because of my criminal record. Can I appeal the decision?

What to Do When a Landlord Denies Public Housing Based on a Criminal Record

When you apply for Section 8 or public housing, you may be asked whether you or a family member have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.

If is the answer is yes, then the landlord may deny your application. But you may still qualify for the housing. If you want to challenge the denial, you need to ask for an informal appeal right away. The number of days you are given will be stated in the rejection letter. You count the number of days from the date in the letter.

You will need to write a short letter to ask for a meeting about the denial. Take your letter to the landlord's office and ask the receptionist to date-stamp a copy of your request for a meeting.   Keep the stamped copy. In the letter, you should ask for:

  • a copy of your application
  • the information used to deny your application
  • a copy of the Tenant Selection Plan (TSP)

The TSP will tell you how long the criminal conviction will count against you. Federal law requires the time to be reasonable. The time may count either from the date you were convicted or from when you completed your sentence. Different landlords will look at criminal convictions for different lengths of time.

At the meeting with the landlord, you need to show that you will be a good tenant. You could show that your conviction should not count against you because it is from a long time ago. Also, you could show that your behavior has improved since you were convicted. Bring letters from teachers, mentors, pastors or others that say how you have changed. Certificates showing you completed courses or programs can also be helpful. You may want to consult with an attorney before the meeting. To find out if you are eligible for Legal Aid, please contact intake at 216.687.1900 or attend a free Brief Advice Clinic.

This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Maria Smith and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue

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