Is It Discrimination For Landlords To Reject Applicants With Felonies?

Law Blog

People who have felonies on their criminal records often have a difficult time getting approved for rentals. The problem is so pervasive that many people wonder if it is a form of discrimination. Having a criminal record is not considered a protected class like race or sex so, in general, being denied housing for a felony conviction is not a civil rights issue. However, here are two times when a landlord's rejection may be considered discriminatory.

Disparate Impact

One way landlords may behave in a discriminatory manner, even if it wasn't their intention to be, is if their policies have a disparate impact on one specific group of people in a protected class. Disparate impact is a term that describes when an otherwise neutral policy results in one or more protected groups being adversely affected.

For example, due to disparities in policing and sentencing, black men are 6 times and Hispanic men are 2.3 times more likely to have criminal records than white males. A landlord who has a blanket policy of rejecting applicants who've been convicted of crimes, regardless of what it was or how long ago the incident occurred, could end up rejecting a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic male applicants. Although the landlord's rule may not have intended to be discriminatory, its application (and thus impact) adversely affected people in a specific group.

It can be challenging proving disparate impact in when it comes to housing. Therefore, you may need to file a complaint with HUD first, who will investigate the landlord and his or her practices. If the agency finds evidence the landlord's blanket policy is negatively affecting a protected class, you can use that information to strengthen your case against the defendant.

Subtle Discouragement

Another way landlords can behave in a discriminatory manner is by using their criminal background policy to subtly discourage people from applying for housing in their facilities. For instance, a landlord who tells Muslim applicants that a criminal record would bar them from being approved for the home but doesn't relay the same information to Christian applicants could be guilty of intention discrimination via subtly discouraging certain people from even applying for the rental.

Again, you would have to obtain evidence of this behavior, which can be obtained by talking to people who have had interactions with the landlord or even setting up a sting operation where different types of people pretend to apply for the apartment and report their results.

Cases involving civil rights violations can be complex, and the issue of being denied housing because of a felony conviction can make the case even more difficult to litigate. It's best to consult with an attorney like those at Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. for more information about this issue and help developing a good legal strategy that may help you win.


13 May 2017

File Chapter 7, and Keep Your Home

Many people assume that when they file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, they will have to give up their homes and other property. This is not necessarily the case. I am a bankruptcy attorney, and I have helped many clients file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without giving up homes, cars, and other property. When you file for bankruptcy, the property you are allowed to keep depends on your individual circumstances and the state where you live. Most states allow exemption for property you are currently paying for. This blog will guide you through that information and help you determine if filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the right choice for you.