Fair Housing Act May Cover Renters with Criminal Records
Civil rights nonprofit Equal Rights Center has sued Mid-America Apartments, which holds more than 100,000 apartments across the U.S., over its policy of rejecting rental applicants with convictions or pending charges.
The lawsuit rests on whether this policy violates the Fair Housing Act by virtue of its disparate impact on Black and Latino populations, who are overrepresented in the criminal punishment system. That conclusion is supported by guidelines issued by HUD in 2016 under the Obama administration.
Several U.S. cities, including Seattle and D.C., have considered adopting "ban the box" policies—usually applied to hiring and employment practices—for housing applications. That approach can deter discrimination and expand access to housing as well as yielding wider social benefits, according to the Center:
“The ability of people who come out of prison and jail to maintain stable housing has a huge impact on recidivism rates,” said Kate Scott, deputy director of the Equal Rights Center. “To say that a person with a criminal record can’t have housing is going to lead to a lot of other social problems.”