The federal Fair Housing Act helps to prevent discrimination in housing. It provides protection for minority populations and protects the most vulnerable.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Fair Housing Act does not protect on the basis of criminal records, but HUD has offered some guidance on how to avoid discriminatory practices when it comes to a criminal record.
HUD guidelines are not laws, but they are something landlords and others in the housing industry should consider when making decisions. HUD suggests that landlords do not apply blanket bans. Blanket bans are when a landlord says you cannot rent if you have specific charges. He or she will not consider the circumstances or any other information. If you have a specific charge, then the landlord will not rent to you.
HUD also suggests not including arrests when assessing criminal backgrounds and always being consistent with background checks. If a landlord runs a check on one person, then he or she must do it for all applicants.
Finally, HUD does require any denial for housing based on a criminal record alone have accompanying evidence that shows the person is a danger and risk to other tenants.
The benefit of having these HUD guidelines is they can help felons to find housing. Housing issues are a top problem for felons even after they have completed their sentences. With the racial disparities within the criminal justice system, issuing blanket bans and being too strict with criminal record checks could lead to discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
Landlords who ignore the HUD guidelines open themselves up to possible litigation for discrimination.