The new policy clarifies that using criminal history to justify a negative housing decision, such as the refusal to rent to or renew a lease for someone, or the refusal to sell to or to give someone a mortgage on a new home, may violate the Fair Housing Act.
Meghan Maury, criminal and economic justice project director at National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement that’s good news for LGBT people.
Nearly a third of the adult population has a criminal record, including millions of LGBT people, Maury said.
“We know [LGBT people] are disproportionately likely to be involved with the criminal legal system. A lack of stable housing exacerbates challenges for people who may also struggle with getting jobs, physical and mental healthcare, and other supports based on their criminal record. We look forward to seeing how providers change their standards to comply with this clarifying guidance.”
The new guidance explains how current housing decisions may violate federal housing and civil rights laws. If a housing provider intentionally discriminates by treating people who have criminal records differently based on race or ethnicity, they are violating the Fair Housing Act. Second, restrictions based on criminal history may burden members of one race or ethnicity more than another, leading to liability due to discriminatory effects.
The new federal guidance is not binding but it does put providers on notice that continuing to screen applicants for criminal history may subject them to legal liability.