Housing & Criminal Record

Detroit bans criminal history question on most rental applications

Great article by Shauna Showersby reports on legislation that would prevent landlords from denying housing based on a person’s criminal record. House Bill 2017 was introduced by Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Lynnwood, and has 10 other Democratic sponsors. Davis said the majority of those benefitting from the legislation are in recovery for mental illness or substance abuse. She said many end up in the legal system to begin with because of untreated behavioral health needs.

Committee member Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, who owns Hometown Property Management, opposes the legislation:

“I completely agree that people in recovery who are working through all that absolutely need housing. Unfortunately there’s the other side of the spectrum when it comes to housing.” ~Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia

He said because this is a broader bill, it’s important to know the data behind it and what percentages of people would actually be affected. Some of those in support testified. Predictably, several landlords testified against the legislation.

HUD guidelines suggest that landlords and property managers take a more individualized approach to screening applicants by considering the specific circumstances of an individual’s criminal history. However, the organization acknowledges that blanket policies which deny people housing based on past records do not serve a legitimate purpose.

HUD also noted that over 100 million of U.S. adults, or nearly one-third of the population, have a “criminal record of some sort.” The report said that even those who were convicted of crimes but not incarcerated face “significant barriers to securing housing, including public and other federally subsidized housing because of their criminal history.” Additionally, because African-Americans and Hispanics are arrested at a disproportionate rate, they are more likely to encounter barriers to secure housing.

If passed, HB 2017 would go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. A criminal history can affect one’s eligibility for both public housing and private housing. An arrest – even before anyone is found guilty – can often trigger eviction of you or your entire household from public or private housing. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.