By: Katie Gouldner
Cohen Seglias Partner Steve Williams is quoted in the December 2016 units Magazine article by Katie Gouldner, “How Insurance Can Protect Against Fair Housing Cases Created By Criminal Background Checks”. The full article is available on the units Magazine website.
The criminal history policy of apartment communities can have discriminatory effects when interacting with the general public.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one-third of the U.S. population has a criminal record of some sort. When these individuals are released from jail or prison, their ability to access safe, secure and affordable housing is difficult.
Apartment community owners and managers should be familiar with the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or natural origin.
While having a criminal record is not a protected characteristic under the Fair Housing Act, criminal history-based restrictions on housing opportunities violate the Act if, without justification, their burden falls more often on residents of one race or national origin over another-and that is exactly what the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is warning owners and managers about.
Refusing to rent based on a criminal record is a form of racial discrimination because of the racial imbalances in the U.S. justice system, according to HUD’s news release dated April 4, 2016.