You commit the crime, do the time, and then you’re free to go, right? Unfortunately, individuals rarely experience that upon release from prison. The stigma of a criminal record continues to haunt them. Many continue to face increased convict housing discrimination and also face challenges obtaining a job and re-integrating into society.
Only about one in three (35%) landlords are willing to provide housing for former convicts who haven’t gone through rehabilitation.
Despite the Fair Housing Act, which Congress passed in 1966 to protect Americans from experiencing discriminatory housing practices in the sale, rental, financing, or advertising of housing, this fact remains. Learn more about former convicts and their rights to fair housing below.
The Fair Housing Act Explained
The federal government passed the Fair Housing Act as law in 1968. This act aims to safeguard Americans from experiencing discrimination when they seek to finance, rent, or purchase a home. Originally, the act protected discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin. Congress decided to pass this monumental legislation as a memorial to the recently deceased Martin Luther King, Jr.
Over time, lawmakers amended this act to protect against gender, disabilities, and discrimination based on families with children.
How the Fair Housing Act Applies to Former Convicts
As you can see, there are limitations to the Fair Housing Act. It only applies to specific, protected groups of people. Former convicts and other Americans with criminal records aren’t necessarily protected from convict housing discrimination unless it is on a basis listed out in the act.
That said, there are some recent legal cases that have changed FHA standards. Under recent guidance from the U.S. The Department of Housing and Urban Development could potentially deem the use of criminal history to screen tenants, deny lease renewals, evict, or exclude individuals from housing as illegal under the FHA based on three theories of liability – discriminatory intent, discriminatory effects, and refusal to make reasonable accommodations.
Typically, an investigation will need to be pursued to determine if the discrimination was intentional and created a discriminatory effect.
Resources for Former Convicts Facing Housing Discrimination
If you believe you’re facing housing discrimination as a result of past criminal convictions, then there are organizations that can help. A few groups you can contact for help finding affordable housing include the public housing authority in your area, reentry housing programs, faith-based groups, non-profits, and second chance housing groups.
If you’re looking for legal help, then consider contacting a lawyer. Some local areas and states have laws that protect offenders from housing discrimination, so it might be worth your time to investigate the local laws.
Know Your Rights and Options if You Face Housing Discrimination
Do you feel like you’ve faced housing discrimination after serving time for a previous conviction? If so, then it’s important to know and understand your rights. Depending on the situation, you could have legal recourse under the Fair Housing Act. Contact one of the agencies above or hire a lawyer to learn more.