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Renting an Apartment? Your Background May Be Checked!


You are looking for a new place to live. Perhaps you had a kid and need a bigger place. Or, perhaps you’re looking in a better neighborhood, or someplace closer to work or your family. Whatever your reason for moving, you’ve prepared yourself up to this point.

You have your things packed. You’ve saved a security deposit. Now, all you need is to find the right apartment or house, one where you can see yourself living. You know the landlord or property manager is going to run your credit, but did you know they might run a background check on you as well?

If you have a criminal record, this can be cause for concern so you should know your rights. Unfortunately, many people have been turned away for housing because of misdemeanor and felony convictions. “But is this even legal?” If you fill out an application for a rental and the landlord runs a background check on you, discovers your record and turns you down because of your criminal history, yes, it’s legal.

On the other hand, if the landlord asked if you had a criminal record and when you said, “Yes,” and he or she responded with, “Don’t bother applying then because we don’t rent to people with criminal records,” you could be a victim of discrimination.

If you were turned down before you had the chance to apply because of your criminal history, or if you feel you were illegally discriminated against for another reason, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

What Are My Rights?

“What if a landlord refuses me after running a background check on me?” In that case, your rights are as follows:

  • The landlord must give you notice of the denial in writing, orally, or electronically.
  • The notice must provide you with the contact information of the company that ran the check and supplied the report.
  • The notice must inform you of your right to fix errors.
  • The notice must inform you of your right to a free copy of the report within 60 days of the landlord turning you down.

According to HUD, “As many as 100 million U.S. adults – or nearly one-third of the population – have a criminal record of some sort.” HUD continues, “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.” The problem is, many of these individuals have a very difficult time securing housing.

If you’re facing criminal charges and you are convicted, you could have trouble finding housing in the future. The best solution is to avoid a criminal conviction in the first place. Contact our Columbia criminal defense firm to learn more.

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