You’ve been looking for a new apartment and it’s been a daunting process. All you want to do is find an affordable place in a nice neighborhood. You’ve saved your deposit, your things are packed, and you’re ready to move in. You know you need a certain income to qualify, you know certain breeds of dogs are not accepted, and you know the landlord will be running your credit. But, are you prepared for a background check?
When landlords are renting apartments and houses to people, they can legally do two things: 1) check the applicant’s credit, and 2) run a background check on the applicant. If you find a house or apartment you’re interested in and the landlord tells you not to bother applying if you have a criminal record, that can be considered discrimination.
If you feel you’ve been discriminated against because of your criminal record, your race, gender, or religion, you can reach out to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD. “But what if a landlord refuses to rent to me after running a background check?” In that case, these are your rights:
- The landlord is required to give you oral, electronic, or written notice about the adverse decision. The landlord can’t simply ignore you.
- The notice provided by the landlord must include the contact information of the company that ran the background check on you.
- The notice must inform you of your rights to fix incorrect information, and your right to receive a copy of the report within 60 days of the landlord’s decision to refuse to rent to you.
HUD is aware that it’s hard for offenders to find housing. According to HUD, “When individuals are released from prisons and jails, their ability to access safe, secure and affordable housing is critical to their successful reentry to society. Yet many formerly incarcerated individuals, as well as individuals who were convicted but not incarcerated, encounter significant barriers to securing housing, including public and other federally-subsidized housing.”
As an East Bay criminal defense firm, we are painfully aware of the impact a criminal conviction has on housing and employment, which is one of the reasons why we fight so hard for our clients. If you’d like to learn more about background checks and housing, we recommend reading, “Using Consumer Reports: What Landlords Need to Know,” published by the Federal Trade Commission.