“So Now I Have to Rent to FELONS?” What the new HUD rule actually says about applicants with criminal records

On April 4th, HUD released a statement entitled “Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate Related Transactions” that immediately set the landlording world abuzz with the news that we could no longer “discriminate” against felons.

Like most incursions by the government into our private property rights, this one spawned a great deal of wrath, and a lot of angry speculation and half-truths regarding what the statement actually “means”.

First, to be clear, this is NOT a new “law”.

It’s what is euphemistically called “guidance” by HUD, which, in this case, is acting as the arbiter and policing force behind fair housing law. So while no actual change to federal law has occurred, we can assume that, going forward, this “guidance” has the force of law, at least insofar as fair housing testing and enforcement is concerned.

In other words, while congress has made no law, and the courts have made no decision in regards to this new policy, it IS one that HUD will use to prosecute housing providers that “break” it.

Second, in order to understand why HUD thinks that whether or not you rent to felons is a discrimination issue AT ALL, it’s important to understand the “Doctrine of Disparate Impact”.

Back in 1968, when the Civil Rights Act defined housing discrimination as the “refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of his race, color, religion, or national origin” (other categories of “protected classes” were added later in both the Federal and State and Local laws), discrimination was understood to be an intentional, if not overt, act.

It was widely recognized that housing providers, sellers, agents, and lenders who intended to keep members of certain classes out of housing didn’t always just say “No Chinese Allowed”—instead, they engaged in subtle behaviors like “steering” (“I think you’d be happier in this neighborhood over here than in the one you said you wanted”), claiming units were rented when members of one class called but available when others did, and other discriminatory conduct.

What these had in common with more run-of-the-mill “We don’t rent to your kind”  acts was that they were all intentional efforts to keep certain people out of certain neighborhoods or properties based on their membership in a protected class. As such, they clearly fit into the definition of “discrimination”, and thus were violations of the law.

However, as time passed (and both overt and covert real discrimination lessened in the U.S.), fair housing “thinking” began to evolve to include the idea that even completely unintentional acts, if the effects of those acts served to limit the housing choices of protected classes, could be discriminatory, illegal, and punishable by law.

One of the early situations to which the disparate impact doctrine was applied was in occupancy limits. Landlords who created policies that limited the number of people allowed in a unit—for instance, “I won’t rent my 2 bedroom apartment to more than 3 people”, were accused of discriminating against families with children because, obviously, such families would be more impacted by such a policy than families without children

The fact that the reason behind these policies has to do with the economics of owning rentals (more occupants use more utilities and do more damage) does not stop them, under the Doctrine of Disparate Impact, from being illegal.

While the idea that you can be prosecuted for unknowingly and unintentionally discriminating might seem dangerous and unfair, the Supreme Court did uphold it in a 2015 decision, saying that the Civil Rights Act does govern any and all policies that create “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers” to housing based on “statistical disparities”.

So what has disparate impact and statistical disparities got to do with felons?

Easy. HUD’s argument is that, since people of color make up a much higher percentage of the prison population than they do of the general population, any policy that denies felons housing is going to deny more blacks and Hispanics housing than it does whites.

The reaction of the landlording community to this rule—and the assertion that refusing to rent to felons was de facto race discrimination—was, basically, “Are they crazy? It’s not that I don’t want black people or Hispanic people living in my rentals, it’s that I don’t want murderers, rapists, drug dealers, child molesters, thieves, forgers, batterers, or criminals of any color, sex, handicap, religion, nationality, color, or disability living in my rentals! For a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I don’t want to be raped, murdered, assaulted, or stolen from myself!”

But now that you’ve had some time to calm down a little, and are all by your little lonesome with no one around that you have to defend yourself to, how about we do a little gut check around race, sex, criminality, and discrimination.

Let’s say that you have a house for rent, and you’ve gotten these 4 applications.

All applicants are qualified as to income,  credit score, and rental history, and are in all ways equal except for their criminal history.

You HAVE to accept one of them as a tenant. Imagine each one in front of you, and consider each carefully…

  1. a 51 year old man who went to jail at 25 for dealing crack
  2. a 35 year old woman who is on probation for felony assault
  3. a 40 year old man who just got out of jail for embezzling $450,000 from his former company
  4. A 25 year old woman who just got out of jail for passing bad checks

Now answer this question honestly: what color did you just imagine each of these people to be?

If you’re like most Americans, you probably assume that #3 is a white guy, and he’s probably also the one that you’re most likely to have said you’d choose—and I bet that’s true no matter what the color of your own skin.

You may tell yourself that it’s because his is a non-violent crime, but so is dealing crack and passing bad checks. You might tell yourself that it’s because he’s unlikely to be in a position to be able to re-offend, or that he’s unlikely to be able to embezzle FROM YOU, but #4 isn’t going to be able to pass bad checks to you if you refuse to take checks from her, either.

So, you see, HUD may actually have a point that on some level, we associate violent and drug-related crimes more closely with people of color than we do with white folks, and that refusing to rent to all felons may in fact BE a subconscious form of discrimination.

It’s so easy to dismiss this entire argument by saying, “Well, it’s provably true that people of color commit more felonies per capita than whites or Asians, given that African-Americans make up 12% of the population, but 36% of the prison population , so, yeah, refusing to rent to felons WILL impact blacks and Hispanics more, but hey, maybe they should stop committing so many crimes and then they wouldn’t have a problem.”

But what’s harder to admit is that America has systemic problems that makes access to good legal defense easy for people with money, and tough for people without, and that a person with white skin and financial resources is a lot less likely to be convicted of a felony, even if he DID commit it, than is a person with darker skin and a public defender. Add to that the sad state of public education, the pressures of poverty, and a whole host of other structural issues that are nobody’s fault and everybody’s fault, and tell me again how you convicted felons are just, 100% of the time, bad risks as tenants.

Yep, this is one of those ugly, messy, divisive, and incredibly complex issues that pit the natural and legal rights of one group against another.

In this case, the conflict is between the perceived social injustice of denying ALL people with a criminal record, regardless of the details of that record, housing against your right to control your private property.

Housing providers and landlords—who, to a man or woman, would probably say that they should NOT be required to let ANY convicted felon have the keys to their properties—are now under a government edict to reconsider their standards. The powers that be have decided that your right to fully control private property that you purchased and managed is outweighed by the “good” that might come from you reconsidering your policies on rentals.

But the good news is, the new guidelines don’t say that you MUST rent to felons, nor do they say that you can’t take criminal history into account. What they say is that a policy that bars ALL felons, no matter what the nature of their crime or when it was committed, might be considered to be discriminatory because of the perceived disparate impact on people of color.

Until actual cases or new “guidance” prove otherwise, you can have policies regarding renting to felons that protect your property, your safety, or the safety of you other tenants and neighbors. What you can’t do is have a no-felons policy based on generalizations like “all criminals are bad tenants”.

Instead—and we’ll undoubtedly get more insight into what HUD thinks is acceptable in future years—you’ll need to have more nuanced policies that you’re willing and able to defend as protecting your property and safety. For instance, you might have criteria that say something like,

No violent or drug-related felonies
No crimes against children
No felonies committed within the last 10 years, and no imprisonment for felonies within the last 5 years
No crimes against landlords or rental properties
No convictions or pleas to any crime involving metal theft, vandalizing properties, or otherwise damaging properties.
No arson convictions or pleas

And, as is always the case when you change your rental standards, you’ll need to have these policies in writing, update them as they change, keep written records of how any application rejections violated your policies, and above all, apply your rules equally to all applicants of all races, religions, disabilities, familial statuses, and so on.

In other words, don’t be what the folks who’d like to further impinge on your property rights think you are. Don’t use your crime-related applicant policies to discriminate against applicants because of their membership in a protected class.

And let’s all keep hoping for day when equality is so pervasive that no one even thinks to regulate it.

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68 comments on ““So Now I Have to Rent to FELONS?” What the new HUD rule actually says about applicants with criminal records
  1. Greg Pittas says:

    As is typical with government they institute a program that turns out to be a success and they have to create additional problems to validate further reasons for existing. My other favorite agency that does this stuff is the EPA. Remember those more stringent lead based paint regs a few years ago that cost us over a thousand in training but never got used.

    • Javarris says:

      I agree with what hud says about the justice system being that every crime I was accused of I was coerced to say I’m guilty because they are gonna believe I’m guilty anyway and give me a harsher punishment because of race I don’t guilty. I believe all black people should save all there money and leave this country even though they put in all the free labor to build it. They are still getting hammered to this day. I don’t agree with the government making people rent to anyone that they don’t wanna rent to. I think it should be the choice of the owner. Renting is not a smart choice for anyone anyway. It’s better to save and buy. U can purchase homes nowadays for 20,000 or less and fix them up.

  2. A sticky wicket indeed. Social injustice aside, more rather than less gov’t intrusion is never a good thing. From Sherwinn Williams passing off the lead paint problem to LL’s…to municipalities imposing civil fines on Ll’s for the criminal behavior of their tenants…to rent controls…to Dodd-FRank…ad infinitum, gov’t is always looking to place responsibility on someone else for the problems they have created and fostered. I have routinely rented to felons…and even to sex offenders (some of my best tenants), as well as non-credit worthy applicants, all subject to investigation, discretion and close monitoring because as you say, ‘Not all felons/sex offenders are created alike.’ One of the problems here is that this is NOT A LAW, but it falls under the dictatorship of Fair Housing…which, like the EPA seems to have unbridled authority. Nonetheless, this is a reminder that it is a good time for all Housing Providers to review their own rental standard policies. Thanks for sharing this essay.

    • Charlene Moore says:

      We have a friend down here in Florida who went to prison for a felony assault at age 19. Got into a fight at a bar, everyone was drunk and he hurt someone and was charged and convicted and did his time. He has towed the line straight and narrow ever since, not even a ticket. This was over 43 years ago. He took care of both his parents when they needed help and recently because of health issues, both of them, they had to be moved into nursing home. He has severe COPD, diabetes and heart problems and still took care of his Daddy and Momma. (Yes, that’s what he calls them) They’ve recently been moved to a wonderful nursing home northeast of Orlando and are doing well. He drives 1 1/2 hrs everyday to be with them and help them get dressed and does things with them. The family sold their home here in the park, he lives here too, and he’s trying to move to be closer to them. He has a very limited income because of his record jobs were nearly impossible to find so he put himself through barber school and worked with his Daddy in his barber shop. (Daddy was a truck driver and broke his back and couldn’t drive truck anymore so he became a barber, he told him he needed help in the shop, so his son could get a job and work with him and take care of the heavy stuff). His income is just under $900.00 per month so his income is below poverty level. He’s been up front with every park he’s tried to buy a mobile in about his record. There were 10 different parks, 5 of them said no problem and took his $50 to $75 for a background check. Then when it came back they said never mind you can’t move here and sorry no refund. 4 others just said no up front! Mind you it happened over 42 years ago and he’s still paying the price. Just ONE, JUST ONE asked all about it and then said the magic words, ” it’s been over forty years and you’ve never been in trouble, not even a ticket, and they’ve all turned you down? That’s insane! We have to do a background check, but there’s going to be no charge, and here’s our letter of approval and you can move in as soon as the other couple move. He gets to move into his new home on May 18th. He cried. He paid the price and has fought hard every step of the way, and kept getting slapped back down. He’s a good person and he’d be the first one to offer help if he could. He was married for 10 years and she developed stage 4 breast cancer, he took care of her to the end. When is enough enough? You have to look at the whole picture and see what they are now and judge them on how they’ve lived since they got out. His old friends were in and out of prison, he broke all ties to all of them including his own brother. HE CRIED! How many of us could do the things he has done, live on less than $900. a month and still keep trying? Sometimes people do change!

      • JD Scott says:

        I CRIED after reading this…the strength of this man, I am floored. I would have approved him as well.

      • Laverne Dickens says:

        My hat goes off to your friend, he made it even when they try to break his spirit.good for him.its seem like when you try and do good evil is always there BUT WE HAVE A God that sets high and look low,he go beyond our false and see our pain but in the end he has the victory

    • Jaden Spaulding says:

      Im a felon and i took a plea deal because i couldnt afford a lawyer….i have had the hardest time finding a place to rent because a s soon as they hear me say im on probation they turn me down, even when i have a good job and a great rental history so im glas gov is stepping in and helping out people that have had problems in the past. How do you expect these people to live and move forward with there lives. 68% of felons end up back in jail because they cant get the help they need to stay out.

      • Rick D says:

        My girlfriend is coming out of prison soon, and I’m so worried she won’t be able to find a place to live. (I’m in another state.) She was convicted of murder even though she wasn’t present when the crime was committed. (It’s a long story.) I didn’t realize how these things happen and all the challenges felons face. Good luck to all. Peace.

    • Jennifer Shelor says:

      I must say thank you to landlords like your self i have 8 felonys from over a 10 year dark time in my life i was an addict i didnt sell i just had possens and know 15 years into my sobriety i cant find houseing for myself and 18 month old baby i work hard and work for myself cleaning homes no one else will touch because if you look my past up theres the felon felon felon like a neon sign i never get asked about my past or anything about my present i just never get that return call and how can the convicted felon prove that the landlords or jobs are discriminating against me or if it was some other reason i cant so…..there are reasons and everyone has a past but i just want a chance i do live in small town va i think if i live in a larger city it wouldnt be as hard but as it is this is the case ive walked out of more than one job interview or landlords office with my head held high pretending i wasnt crushed to cry in my car i made mistakes in past and they still define me

  3. George Hoover says:

    I would venture to guess that 95% of felons have poor credit. So if you were looking for an out, that would be it.

    But the bigger issue is government infringement. At what point will they stop? Probably never. But you have to hit back twice as hard to keep them at bay. And elect people that will protect your rights.

    • Brett says:

      Come up with solutions. That is the only intelligent thing to do. It is easy to stand in judgement, hands on hips, when it isn’t you. I challenge people that THINK they are intelligent to solve this issue so that felon-Americans have a reasonable chance to carry on after serving out their punishment. What is the point in punishing them with a judgement if they have no hope. You have given them none. People are at different levels of perfection at different points in their lifetimes based on variables. Here is a solution free of charge: HUD creates a program that allows felons to buy a dwelling based on certain criteria of ability to pay the mortgage or rent to own. Maybe certain areas may be designated. This isn’t a new thing. People have simply forgotten what people of past generations learned and accepted. Unfortunately, it is happening to this age of felons because of a naive sense of what it is to be human and to forgive. Felons haven’t changed and it is unfair to change the rules when your accepted legal system has settled the issue. 1/3 of all of our society has an arrest on their record. You have decided to pass the judgement and have caused an outcome that cannot be forgiven or recompensed. At some point in all of OUR lives we made a bad choice and we were forgiven. Aren’t you really just seeking to hurt another person because you yourself are hurting inside? The desire to feel powerful or better than some other person? Personal issues aren’t good reasons and it is innappropriate and unnecessary to place oneself above the laws of judgement. It doesn’t make sense. Movies and tv express the personal views of the authors like books. Personal is personal and so many people have forgotten what is appropriate. That is the entire problem not the felons. You punished them already. Let it go.

    • Dawn S says:

      Way to group people together based on your own ignorance. Your comment is offensive to many people, myself included. I am a felon (5+yrs old) and due to a nasty divorce have poor credit. The 2 have nothing to do with each other, but in your eyes they do. All people like me ask is that you have the backbone to ask us what happened? What were the circumstances surrounding your felony. Not all felons had a choice, some were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing they did themselves, guilty by association. JUST ASK! WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS AND DESERVE TO BE TREATED AS SUCH.

      • Vena Jones-Cox says:

        If felons truly become a protected class, we will literally be breaking the law by asking them what the nature of their offense was. That’s the beautiful thing about government protectionism; it makes it impossible for human beings to treat each other as human beings. It divides us all into categories, and then tells us how we have to treat the people in other categories.

        • Chris F. says:

          I came here looking for an answer. I can’t figure it out. personally, I have been living in a oxford house recovery home for 2 plus years. I am looking to grow as an individual.
          Im 28 years old white male. Ive had some drug addictions problems. I am in recovery and looking for a nice place to make an honest living. Ive been sober for 18 months. my suspended felonies are possession of marijuana and pain pills. i caught a charge for rolling papers too. now I understand I broke the law. and its humility that I have to face. ( i also had a deferred felony but they say that doesn’t show up as a felony for a fraud case )
          so i apply with . I let them know up front what the deal is, why i want t move it. i show them rental history at my sober living home, job verification of the past 5 years. which would be like 2 jobs. I am a good employee and don’t get fired. I have great references with my mangers. and i knew a head of time it would be difficult so i offer the full six month lease paid in full up front.
          I have been saving for this at the sober living home.
          I will be turned away?
          or there is exception.
          I think that its unfair to the landlord, to have him mis an opportunity of a tenant who pays. I am a drug addict and i know i will always be. Today I am sober. So i am curious about the law and what it actually says. cuz i don’t wanna waste money on background checks. I have felonies and I have no rental history. Ive got the deposit and six months up front, paid in full. i would like to spend my money here, ya know. money talks is what i have been praying for.

  4. E. J. Edward says:

    To me your conclusion is based on facts not in evidence.

    Based on how you described the four potentials I feel that any prudent landlord would choose the tenant who’s criminal record is the oldest. Someone selling crack 26 years ago, and who has been charged with nothing since, is a far better risk that someone who recently been released from prison.

    Three have recent criminal-behavior/environment pasts – one did a crime 26 Years Ago. Come on now; who would any reasonable person select?

    I can’t buy your argument or your logic.

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      I didn’t ask who you’d select. I asked you to examine what your own automatic assumptions are in regards to race and crime. If you read the entire article, when I actually got to the part about what you can/should do to screen tenants, I use length of time since the crime was committed as a criterion.

  5. Regina Breitner says:

    I have to say I honestly did not consider color at all in choosing of the 4 possible tenants. Without reading further I had picked #1. #2 is violent, #3 just got out of jail, and #4 is probably going to be a hassle to collect from every month. Then I read further and realized I has to assign color, and then I did assume the #3 was white, but thinking about it, they all could be white.

  6. Steve Cook says:

    Felony convictions are NOT a protected class. That means you can refuse to even accept an application from a convicted felon (non expunged). You see I have contact HUD and challenged them on my policy.

    Before anyone even meets with me to see the apartment or house for rent I screen people with a mini application (verbal or written) and on the mini application I mention verifiable income and debt to income is the most 2 important items. However I won’t even consider anyone with a Felons on your record (if it hasn’t been expunged)
    Have a gross misdemeanor on your record (if not expunged)
    Have a misdemeanor on your record (if not expunged).

    Non expunged criminal convictions are not a protected class, and if I screen those people out of the application process BEFORE they even meet me, then there is NO basis for any complaints that I am illegally discriminating against them.

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      Actually, Steve, if you’ll read the source material in this post, you’ll see that your strategy of rejecting all felons out of hand is now against HUD’s policies

      • Lou Bond says:

        I agree with Vena. Steve is definitely setting himself up for tons of lawsuits…and has admittedly put it out there for future applicants and HUD to use against him.

      • Chris says:

        So they can’t say in the conditions applicants with a felony will not be considered for residency?

        • Vena Jones-Cox says:

          They can’t use a past felony as a blanket reason to reject an application. It’s mot that it can’t be CONSIDERED, it’s that it can’t be the final word.

    • Cynthia G Sutphin says:

      Is now you just told on yourself as to how you skirt the HUD illegally. Hope no body offical sees this comment. You my catch a criminal case. You just as much a felon criminal type as who you are discriminate against.

      • Vena Jones-Cox says:

        Sigh. You might want to read the article, where I mention that 1. this is not actually a law and 2. I do not now and have never had a blanket policy against felons, before you make lame (and who knows, maybe actionable?) threats. If the problem is that you CAN’T read, I apologize.

  7. Joshua Walls says:

    So where is a convicted felon Supposed to live?

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      There’s no shortage of housing created especially FOR convicted felons, and it’s not the case that every rental housing provider has a policy against renting to them. But as a counter to your question, at what point does the government STOP getting to tell its citizens what they can and can’t do with their private property?

      • Michael Parker says:

        all you have to do to keep the government from telling what to do is: stop accepting the government’s money. This law was designed for those programs that accept federal money.

        Let’s see how long you stay in business with your current policy (i.e. bad credit, criminal history, etc) but like all other two-faced landlords, you are money hungry and will refuse to walk away from the federal money.

        So, until you can support your apartments/rental homes without the fed’s assistance….quit your griping and follow the law.

        • Vena Jones-Cox says:

          Wow, Michael, are you under the impression that all rental housing providers get money from the government?
          Because you are 100% wrong; I get $0 in local, state, or federal money with which to “operate” my rentals. Nor do I believe in subsidies for rentals; section 8 and similar programs actually warp the market and cause rents for working people to be higher than they otherwise would. The majority of housing providers do not accept section 8 for this and other reasons.
          In addition, you seem to believe that the HUD guidelines only apply to people who do accept taxpayer funds to own or operate their rentals. That is categorically not the case.
          Also, you might want to consider reading the entire article: the title is me quoting the consternation others expressed when the HUD guidelines were announced, NOT me stating my policy on felons. I actually do allow felons to rent my properties under certain conditions, thanks for asking.
          The fact that you think you can threaten me by “taking a screenshot and forwarding it to the U.S. Department of Fair Housing [sic] as a complaint” is a shining example of why government interference in housing–both in subsidizing it and in attempting to regulate it in silly ways–is such a terrible idea. You don’t like my opinion that I should be able to decide whether felons get to live in my house, and so are attempting to use a cabinet-level agency as a bludgeon to silence me, and you believe that they will somehow punish me for holding such an opinion. But I bet you don’t see a problem with that, right? It’s OK for the government to be a bully as long as they’re your bully.

      • Donald McCulley says:

        Why does the government have to tell the owner that someone committed a felony

        • Vena Jones-Cox says:

          Criminal records are “public record”, as are civil cases like eviction, lawsuits, etc. This is as much to protect the accused criminals as to protect the public. Would you want to live in a country where the government could accuse you, try you, and punish you IN SECRET, without telling the rest of your fellow citizens what they thought you’d done wrong? A government that could do that could do whatever it wanted.

          • Michael Nicholson says:

            That’s true but its regular people that convict you every day for the crime you already paid for the company that doesent want you cause of the crime you already did time for how can you do the right thing people won’t let you

      • Dawn S says:

        Yes they do have specific housing for felons coming directly out of prison. But what about felons from years ago? What about felons with kids? There are no housing provided for people in those situations? And with nearly 95% of landlords stating “no felons” really puts families in the situation of becoming homeless and being forced into shelters which is not a healty environment for children to be in. Making the blanket “no felons” really does exclude alot of people, not just blacks or hispanics either. I am white and no one will rent to my family due to past mistakes that we have paid our debts to society for, yet others who are not judge, nor jury, nor executioner think that I should suffer for the rest of my life. That my children have to suffer for my mistakes. That is what a crime is for most people…a mistake…that if could would take it back. People need to start being more open minded and inquire about the circumstances surrounding the crime. That’s all we ask.

        • Vena Jones-Cox says:

          Yes, people do need to be open minded. That’s very different than their government telling them that they must, under penalty of law, be open minded.

          • Chris F. says:

            So say my mom pasted away and left me $100,000 dollars. I am a felon. you don’t want my money? l

          • Vena Jones-Cox says:

            Please read the article. I do rent to felons, just not ALL felons. And no, the fact that you have $100k is meaningless to me if you injure me, one of my other residents, or destroy my house.

  8. christian says:

    I would have went with the 51 year old former crack dealer…I mean 26 years ago? People change.

    The Guy who embezzled has no chance because he shows too much ability to game the system and most likely me.

    The Female passing bad checks is no chance either, I hate thieves.

    The assault charge I would look at what it was for. Being currently on Probabtion I would ask for her case work and file. Maybe she got in a fight with her ex-bf? Maybe she slapped someone out at a party? Maybe she beat her cousin up over an unpaid debt?

    Two of these I wouldn’t waste my time. The Drugs and the assault require further investigation.

  9. Shawna Jackson says:

    I am a single mom that five years ago lost my 2 month old a husband forever. I turned to drugs and was on a mission to stay numb till I finally died and that as exactly what I almost did. Getting busted by the cops didn’t matter I didn’t intend to live long enough for it to matter and prison was nothing in my mind I had nothing left on the outside why not I was not thinking clearly as anyone with a family can imagine. I got charged with trafficking Meth and then I got a blessing I was pregnant I got a second chance to be a mother something doctors said couldn’t happen now I have my son and I am not convicted yet but at as well be I am labeled regardless of being convicted. No one will rent to me with trafficking charges I quit as soon as I found out about my son I even Became homeless sleeping on porches and sidewalks because I cut everything and everyone off I went from 1000s a day to not a penny to change my life I got a job a car and still struggle to find a home to rent I make 9.50 an hour I learned from my mistakes and people do change does that mean I am a monster no it means I was broken and lost but I am not anymore why am I being shunned for living I bet none of the landlords placing judgement are perfect

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      Shawna–

      I’m so sorry you’ve had such a hard time, and respect for your hard work in turning your life around for you and your son.
      Let me challenge you with this thought, though: is it FAIR for the government to force a private property owner who doesn’t want to rent to someone with your background to do so?
      I agree that you deserve a chance, and I would probably take you as a tenant if all other things were equal (that is, you made enough for the payment, had a decent rental history, all that). But if I DIDN’T agree, and want to choose who I rented MY property that I paid for to, does the government have the right to force me to do something different?
      There are so many personal, social, and economic problems that people face, and no one “deserves” to have to deal with any of them–but at the same time, is it right for the government to make YOU deal with someone else’s issue, no matter how desperate they might be? Would it be OK with you if the government said that you had to let someone else drive your car once a week, because they needed to get to work, too, and they didn’t have a car because they wrecked theirs?
      There’s a big difference between saying “I think things should be different” and saying “I want the government to use it’s bullying power to make other people act the way I think they should act”.

      • Michael Parker says:

        Vena,
        you sound like a whiner. you want the government’s money but, you hate the rules. You’re trying to compare oranges to apples when you state “Would it be OK with you if the government said that you had to let someone else drive your car once a week, because they needed to get to work, too, and they didn’t have a car because they wrecked theirs?”. The difference is, I’m not accepting federal money for the operation of my vehicle. I bought and paid for my own car and even then, I still have to abide by the government’s rule (i.e. have to have driver’s license, insurance, wear a seatbelt, vehicle has to pass inspection, has to be properly registered)so please, enough of your whining.
        I love that you post your illegal polices on here. I have taken a screenshot of this blog and forwarded it to the U.S. Department of Fair Housing in the form of a compliant. So please, when they come a knocking, make sure you tell them to stay out of your private business.

        • Vena Jones-Cox says:

          Oh, Michael. If only you’d bothered to read the article. Then you could have sent your complaint to the “U.S. Department of Fair Housing” and been ignored at that non-existent entity, too. Interesting how people who take money from the government to run their businesses think everyone else does, too…and how people who don’t or can’t read assume that an article’s title reflects their own policy.

      • Brad says:

        Let me ask you this, since when did you start believing that private property is something you actually own? I mean the state can strip it away, just as quickly as you stop paying your taxes on it!

      • Michael Nicholson says:

        I see what trying to say but the example sucks crashing your car won’t keep you from renting a home and its only on your mvr that’s motor vehicle report so no one sees it when doing a background check

        • Vena Jones-Cox says:

          Actually, that’s not correct; if you’re cited for crashing your car it does show up on your record. However, most property owners would not be concerned that you would crash your car in their property, or crash it into the other building residents, or not be able to pay rent due to your car-crashing addiction. Let me say AGAIN that I do not personally have a policy against renting to all felons, but surely you can understand that to the small owner who only owns maybe their house and 1 rental, the risk of losing several month’s rent to a tenant (going back to jail, spending all their money on drugs etc) or the risk of other tenants moving out because the tenant (is a thug, threatens them etc) or the risk of being sued because they rented to a (murderer, rapist, child molester) is JUST TOO HIGH.
          Most of these owners have mortgages on their rentals. Those mortgages have to be paid every month whether or not the tenant pays. These properties are not making so much money that they can afford a lawsuit. These owners are working people that, if something goes wrong with their rental, they have to take money away from supporting their family to fix it. That’s why they don’t want to risk a disruption in their income, AND WHY THEY SHOULDN’T BE FORCED TO. If they choose to out of a sense of societal responsibility or because they like or sympathize with a particular applicant (landlords, if you’re reading this, that could also be a fair housing violation), fine. But to say “it’s unfair to felons to refuse to take the risk of renting to them” denies the fact that it’s unfair to the property owners to force them into a position of possibly using income they need, or, if the situation is bad enough, even losing the property.
          WE CAN’T HAVE EVERY SINGLE THING WE WANT AS A COUNTRY. In a perfect world, no one would commit crimes at all. If they did, it would be once and never again. Once the crime was “paid for”, there’d be no discrimination. But to be perfectly fair, landlords and employers who took such a risk would need to be compensated by the taxpayer if something DID go wrong, wouldn’t they? We can’t afford it, and in any case it’s not the government’s job to make the world perfectly fair in every single person’s view.

    • Annette says:

      As a landlord I do the background checks. In some cases if the person’s history shows 1 or 2 arrests then nothing or there is a divorce soon after or before the arrest I always question it. If the Felony or Misdemeanor was over 5 years ago I question it. If crime was over 10 years before with no other instances we talk and I will rent to them. People deserve second chances. But no sex crimes I have 2 parks within 1000 feet of my communities. That’s against rules with sex crimes.

  10. Robert Kresler says:

    I am a 65 year old man that lives on $1400 a month in social security. I was storing my work related tools at an ex employer’s place of business and he decided he would not give them back. I did the wrong thing and broke into his place of business to get them back. It was bad judgement, I totally agree. I was caught and charged and convicted of a class B felony and received three years probation. I am college educated and at age 62 this was my first felony arrest. Because of my income, I have been searching for a “HUD” subsidized senior apartment that charges based on a percentage of income. These are HUD financed and subsidized apartments and every one has turned me down because of my felony conviction. In these cases, the apartment owners have used government funds to finance their complexes, so don’t tell me they have not received something from the government in return for abiding by HUD rules, but yet they continue rejecting felons out of hand.I believe completely in personal property rights except when someone takes government funds and then ignores the obligations that go along with the benefits of “government subsidies” they have benefited from.

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      Robert–
      you are absolutely correct, HUD owned properties have LONG been required to consider felons. I’d talk to your local fair housing organization about this. However, to be clear, even HUD properties do not have to approve every situation; other qualifications and also the nature and age of the felony can affect you.

  11. tupac says:

    I posted an ad for room and didnt check rules before.this lady with disablity siad she had cancer and said she had cat.I said i am allgery to cat piss.After that she text okay ill left cat at my mother.I didnt reply back.Also got a felon can rent.I put my phone number.Can HUD come after me now.I delete everything and put wont rent to anyone due to spam and pranks call.Cant tell whos real.Help please.

  12. Fartzberg says:

    In 1961 there was “1” male prison in texas. There are now more than 110. When DNA came online it was discovered 29% of deadbeat dads WERE NOT THE FATHER yet no senate, congress, presidential, governor, tabled the issue. Were the men released the DOJ budgetary shortfall across our country would have exceeded 400 million dollars a day.

    Similar discoveries were similar across the FELON spectrum.

    ANOTHER consideration is how many people in prison would not be there if they had the cash for our Courtrooms of CLOUT where people are free to go if they have the legal funds ?

    Our future will see instrumentation whereby Case-Law, designed by gangs of lawyer, judges, bankster, etc etc lawmakers who design laws to further empower their gangs will be exposed for the real criminality they are.

    Consider these scenarios when Renting to people in a society which does not permit them self owned living quarters for no reason other the greed and foul case-law used to define EXACTLY WHO are felons, while real felons go unpunished.

    After returning to USA from another country, I was not in the habit of creating debt. My credit rating was horrendous, I ignored it until one day I was denied a rent application, they also kept the deposite. After a year or so of wrongful treatment by uninformed people I looked further into why I was a bad person. I took out a few credit cards, paid off a couple of cars, and disputed a handful of erroneous imaginary debts an international bank fraud banker had put there after swindling me out of 100,000 $ plus, my credit score rose above 700 and even then There were still false bad credit reports whereby I would have to hire lawyers to remove. The international fraud bankster goes uninvestigated. After Obama took office, prosecutions against banksters dropped to near 10% of whet they were before Obama.

    Have a little empathy, who among you would be different from any other if you had lived their lives. Treating people with respect so long as they treat you with respect can make the world a better place. Being judgemental because of opinions made by uninformed people about others does not make you a better person, nor does it make the world a better place. it’s difficult to judge others without often being wrong.

    Good luck
    Truth
    Trust
    Good will will follow

  13. alex bradley says:

    i am an ex felon who is being refused housing and i am permanently disabled and very sick with chronic incurable illnesses and havent had any trouble in over five years and i am LIVID over fact that i got a letter stating that they are removing me from housing list because i have a felony…..i dont know how anyone can let this happen today…but i cannot let this go and i am writing to HUD and if i have to spend money and file papers against them so be it…i cannot let some property management place oppress me like this i just do not deserve this nor can i afford a normal apartment because my disability is very low income and i am SUPPOSE to qualify for housing because i am legit disabled so where is the justice in this??

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      It sounds like it’s HUD itself that’s removing you from their list, not a private owner?? Interesting how the government doesn’t have to follow its own rules.

  14. Jeff says:

    How do you handle an applicant with multiple arrests, a couple burglaries, violations of probation, the last arrest being in 2013?

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      Is the reason that he’s been imprisoned for some or all of that time, by any chance?
      My own rental requirements don’t look at convictions more than 5 years old if there’s been no subsequent issues.

  15. Michael Nicholson says:

    I have read a lot of the post on here and I would like to say people make mistakes some are worse than others but I personally feel that if a person has done their time for their crime why wouldn’t we give them a chance and im not talking about the repeat offenders but those who have learned from their mistakes we are human and we all make bad decisions sometimes but to deny someone the chance to start over or to become a constructive part of society’s way is infact a life sentence without the bars felons are people too they have families and some even have goals but how can they reintegrate back into society if we keep judging them for the crime they already served time for truth is we don’t know if they really committed the crime we just accept the paper for what it is and that’s not fair to a fellow human being

  16. Mark Henry says:

    I really hope one day housing AND job discrimination (based on drug use) is no longer a thing. I understand convicted felons are not protected under any law, but as stated above, people do change. They aren’t necessarily bad people, they just made bad decisions. With that being said, housing and job discrimination only serves as a tool to keep those convicted of past felonies/misdemeanors in the system. I was recently convicted of drug possession (medical marijuana) last year, along with a “prohibited weapon” (the weapon, an antique rifle, was legally mine and in my home at the time. As you can see, I got screwed royally). Anyhow, I’m looking at various rental qualifications and many of them automatically disqualify people if they have a drug possession conviction. I think that’s absurd. Just because someone smokes/ingests marijuana because of medical issues doesn’t mean they are a negative threat to neighbors or the community. This country is full of hypocrites at every angle! Every state is on the verge of legalizing marijuana both medically and recreationally, but housing discrimination based on using it is still a thing! So my question is, is there any websites that can help someone like myself find rental housing?

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      Was any of this a felony? I know very few housing providers who care about misdemeanors. And despite all the screaming in this comment thread about how owners should be forced by the government to use their private property that they paid for with their own money and continue to maintain and support with their own energy, in ways that they prefer not to, MOST, at least that I know, won’t concern themselves with a felony over 5 years old. I think you’ll also find that many smaller owners don’t have a set policy against renting to all felons; if you can show case docs that prove what you’re saying above I’m guessing most smaller owners would rent to you.

      • James says:

        Vena Cox-Jones: The “it’s my private property, I can do whatever I want” is a tricky argument. That was the segregationists argument, too. If that restaurant doesn’t want to serve certain people, that’s their prerogative.

        Do you think that’s good policy?

        • Vena Jones-Cox says:

          And, “you’re in business, therefore you must serve who the government says you must serve” is a slippery slope. Did you know that Minneapolis just made it illegal to discriminate against section 8 tenants? Now, you might be saying, “Well, good, poor people need a place to live!” but being forced to deal with section 8 = being forced to submit to their inspections (my own home wouldn’t pass a cincinnati section 8 inspection. Know why? there’s a chip out of one of the front stairs that i haven’t gotten around to fixing. If i don’t care and a potential tenant doesn’t care, why am I going to pay $200 to get that fixed, again??) and to use THEIR leases, not your own.
          We tend to be fine with the government bullying people as long as they’re bullying the “right” people (segregationists and other mean folks) to do the “right” things. We give the government all kinds of power to force citizens to do things. Then OUR bully leaves office and a new bully that bullies the WRONG people takes over and we’re all so distraught that we need to run to our safe spaces.
          The solution is simple: No. Government. Bullying. Ever. For. Anyone.
          Only the things we ALL agree on–that none of us have the right to deprive others of life, liberty, or property–should be the subject of this nation’s laws or policing policies. The government should keep the peace, maintain the nation’s infrastructure, and coin money. For all else, we should suck it up and display personal compassion, responsibility, charity, and fortitude.

  17. Goddess says:

    I hate to be the one to break it to u. You are no Goddess. Goddess were not and still are your color.Did u see Gods of Egypt? I bet u did. Do u know why it flop??! Peace. The rules were made base on the fact our slaveowners had no intentions of staring abd stabilizing thier own community.

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      And I am so sorry that you had to be the one to inform me of this sad news. I sincerely hope that it didn’t keep you up last night. I know how bad I feel when I have to completely re-orient their worldview for them. God bless you, sir.

  18. Chris F. says:

    vena. listen. the right to rent your property is totally true i get it. if two people wanted to rent my guitars an xboxes i would honestly judge the two people. i understand that if i was felon free. i would be happy not worrying about y neighbor stealing my stuff. I get that. but what about the stuff that has already been approved. and living there. thats my case V, You can judge off an interview. and in the end you should know weather or not a felon is an acceptable tenant for you and your other tenants. thats all i would like is a chance to be interviewed up a background check, i got in trouble for 2 lora tabs and a little bud and rolling papers. i had wisdom teeth growing in at that time of my life also. like you have worse people than owe already living in your complex. weed is only illegal on felonie terms in a few places. i get sob stories get old. who wants to interview everybody. to much black and white. I think the correct answer is suitable, law states that no home owner is allowed to house felons with out minimum standard requirements. these minimum standard requirements include, but not limited too. rental history , monthly income, proof of employment, job history, deposit, first and last months rent, interview ( with property owner) and 3-6 non related references of three or more years.

    My law(a felon made) would cover everybody.
    property owner if they meet this requirements then how could you discriminate.
    you can set your own rental history requirements and income prior
    for a felon to meet these requirements is a difficult task on its own!
    the other tenants, they would be aware of the requirements and trust the home owner judgement at interview.

    like a job, either you fit what were looking for or you don’t. and you can still be denied. but at least they got the chance.

    chances are a felon can’t meet those requirements with out a recovery process. for first time offenders. repeat offenders would be screwed too. so i am going to run for president now.

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      But see, this is one of those catch 22 situations that over-regulation has created. I can’t make decisions about applicants based on a gut feel, because if I choose to rent to applicant A who has a felony but is white (not BECAUSE he’s white but because I interviewed him and he seems really sorry) then reject applicant b who is in every way the same except that he DOESN’T seem sorry and is also black, guess what? That discrimination charge is going to cost me $10k and my reputation.
      Rental housing providers are already running scared of discrimination claim over everything from disability (did you know that hoarding is a disability? yep. can’t discriminate against someone just because it’s going to cost you $15,000 to get rid of their stuff when you evict them) to service animals, there’s no way we can make a call from the gut about a felon.

  19. Lee Stamp says:

    I agree that having to hire some or rent to someone with a criminal conviction(s) is tough and risky but let us not be blind to our own selves a lot of us don’t claim to be criminals but I believe it’s because we tend to overlook what we do ourselves on a daily basis difference between the ones that did there time and payed their debt to society and us is very simple…. We have just not been caught. Look at it this way before you discredit what I’m trying to prove. How many of us have Speed up when we see a light about to change red….. Or breeze through a stop sign… Or cut someone off on the road or highway….and let’s all be honest on this one… How many of us obey the speed limits on city streets and Highways? These are just a few of the laws that so many of us brake every single day but think nothing of it… But do you realize that the law has these see set up for a reason it’s for our safety… Breaking these laws are not only obviously braking the law… And believe me so many people try to justify it’s just a traffic violation not a murder charge or Robert or assault… Well true… But let me be blunt…running or breezing through a stop sign can cause injury or death and definitely so can someone who cuts someone off on the road and most importantly speeding…. My God I see business men (and women) flying down highways if I’m doing 75 MPH myself and these cars just whip past me they have got to be doing 90-100 MPH!!!! And don’t even care that they are doing it and they look at you as if you are in their way… Thousands upon thousands of people do stuff like this on a daily basis and think nothing of it… And let’s not talk about texting and driving in some states it totally illegal to text and drive I assure you millions of people still do this on a constant basis causing a danger to everyone around them….just because it has not happened to them yet I believe does not still make it right… So let me give an an idea on this one…. Who would you rather hire or rent to…. A man who wrote bad checks…. Or a man who just hasn’t been caught yet but has cut people off on the road.. Ran through stop signs….red lights…. Texting while driving…. He has done on these things just had not gotten caught… I would rather deal with someone who wrote me A bad check then someone who thinks the law does not apply to them and at any given moment hurt or kill someone or many if it happened while he was texting or speeding and cut a women off off driving a van filled with kids and she has one on the way but he causes her to go into panic and….well you know the rest. So many of us pass judgement solely on the bases of one’s background. Even the Good book says “he who has no sin cast the first stone” how many of us do that how many of us are so quick to judge? I admit if I’m looking for a baby sitter I definitely don’t want someone who has a history of child molestation or rape or kidnap… But let’s say he robbed a bank 15 years ago…he was 18 years old when the crime was committed and there has been nothing since? We just need to evaluate on a case by case situation. I own a company and let me tell you I get more positive outcomes from those I hire with criminal convictions then I do with one’s who have clean records.. In fact I had a employee inform me (he was had a criminal background) but informed me of a plot that two other employees (crime free employees) to steal from me they tried to involve the other employee but he was more concerned about keeping his job and being loyal to me. After firing those two employees you might have thought maybe he did have some type of involvement in in and either he did not like his cut on the deal or he just simply backed out…. What matters is he did the right thing and when I asked him would he like a raise he said no thanks I want to earn my raise not win it or have it given to me just because I did the right thing… He said he values his job more then taking from it. He is still employed with me to this day and he has become more a friend to me then so called friends I have known well before I met him. My point is this a man with a clean criminal background has the same ability to commit a crime just like a person already with one. We just can’t shut the door on people’s faces just because of some mistakes they made in there past. This goes for renting out to them as well they are human beings nobody is perfect we wonder why the return rate is so high on offenders… Well what do you expect if everyone is slamming a door in their faces? Let me be honest with you I would rather hire a felon because in prison they got punished for doing things the wrong way so they had order forced or be on trouble not just fired and sent home.I trust a criminal to make my food VS a regular worker who wipes his nose and continues working and making your food without washing his or her hands the convict having being trained like a robot will wash his hands he has been made forced to do this but none the less he practices good hygiene and sanitation. Please let us not be so quick to judge.

    • Vena Jones-Cox says:

      What I hear you saying is that in a society that wants to regulate our every behavior, everyone becomes a criminal. I completely agree. However, telling owners who they have to house in the properties they bought, paid for, and own, is another example of regulating our every behavior!! Again, I don’t screen out felons as long as the conviction is more than 5 years old and there’s been no trouble since–and most small landlords, i think, have the same or more generous policies. The point is, to use us as tools of social engineering agenda of one department of the government is just as wrong as the “unfairness” that a felon might be denied housing.

      • Alan K says:

        Actually, Vena, tons and tons of landlords maintained blanket discrimination polices. A few uninformed ones still do, however HUD is definitely enforcing this rule.

        A complaint against a landlord who discriminates in this regard (or cites a ‘pretext reason’ as their reason for discriminating against someone with an old criminal record) will get action by HUD every time and that landlord will wish they had gone into another business.

        They’re aggressively enforcing this.

  20. josh says:

    This is a very tough subject at hand for myself. I as well was not a productive member of society, at 19 I was on the run and was captured and imprisoned at 20, sentenced to 5 years in TDCJ, I was released and I am proud to say I made the commitment to myself to do better, because I knew mentally I was better. Now from the pov of society I do agree, there are a lot of sick and demented people in this world that need to be in there or even in death row. But that subject aside. I decided to go to (community) college and pursue the life of happiness. I started, of course, as a construction laborer and landscaper. Now, throughout my drive and dedication I am a General Manager of a large retail store corporation, I never thought I would reach such a position. I am now married and have 1 child, my wife is a full time student so I am the sole provider to our household.
    My conviction was in 2004, released in 2008, and cleared by 2009. Now in 2017 I was denied and apartment due to my criminal background. What gives? To be very open with you all, instead of getting mad or going crazy like people picture “convicts”, I simply cried. It hurts to this day the thought of not being able to provide stable housing to my son. And it i very hard to save up money for a house down payment, since I am also providing food and housing to my wife’s mother, grandmother and nephew. The only type of apartments that would accept me are the type of neighborhoods I refuse to raise my son in. I shall continue working through this ordeal but I wish just for 1 simple hand to help, I was never on food stamps or any other help because I am able to work, but just 1 help to get permanent or an apartment, that’s all.

  21. WILLIE TRAPP says:

    OK WELL I HAVE LOOK AND READ MOST OF THIS CRAP. YOU SEE THERE IS A HUD HOUSING IN PERRYVILLE MARYLAND, 21903. IT IS CALLED PERRYVILLE VILLA. THERE IS A BROTHER AND SISTER LIVING THERE WHO BOTH HAVE BEEN LOCK UP FOR DRUGS.THEY ARE STILLING DRUG OUT OF THERE ROOM AND LETTING ALL KIND OF PEOPLE COME IN AND OUT OF THERE ALL NIGHT LONG. YOU SAY CALL THE COPS. WELL HUD SAYS THAT COPS CAN NOT COME IN UN LESS THEY ARE ASKED TO. NO BODY WILL STAND UP TO THEM BECAUSE THEY WILL GET THE HELL BEAT OUT OF THEM.

  22. WILLIE TRAPP says:

    i just hope that HUD LOOKS IN TO ALL THIS.

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