My Criminal Record

It’s estimated that 70 million to 100 million people in the United States have some type of criminal record. These records are filed in a database that anyone needing such information can access. A simple misdemeanor or minor offense goes to this database and can create a lifelong barrier for people.

One effect of having a criminal record is a person’s access to housing, an essential need of an individual.

If you’re among those with criminal records, you may have questions like, can such a record prevent someone from getting an apartment? What are the implications of having a criminal record? What are your rights, and is it illegal for someone to deny you housing because of a criminal record? If you aren’t sure if you have an active criminal record, we recommend performing a check on yourself through a criminal records lookup service.

This article will tackle concerns experienced by people with criminal records about housing and accommodations. Also, this write-up provides information on the rights of a person with a criminal record and how the housing industry should treat them.

Inmates’ records are public records that anyone can access through sites like, where you can quickly get needed prisoner information for criminal record checks and other identification requirements.

As you read this article, you’ll know how to address a situation when you’re denied rental or purchasing an apartment or housing unit because of your criminal records.

Can Criminal Records Prevent You From Getting Housing?

In the United States, landlords and property managers can refuse someone to become their tenant if they have a criminal record. It’s within their rights to do background checks on anyone who wants to rent their property.

Though it’s still at the discretion of the property’s owners whether they’ll allow it, in most cases, felonies and misdemeanor records are common reasons to be denied an apartment rental.

It can be frustrating for people reintroduced to society after incarceration to get a sense of normalcy in their lives. A criminal record will always linger in a person’s life, especially if it remains public information.

Is It Illegal for a Landlord to Deny Housing to Ex-convicts?

On the contrary, landlords, property managers, or owners have the right to deny housing to people with criminal records. But, the denial of housing must be based on concrete evidence and not just subjective assessments or speculation.

Property managers can do background checks on possible tenants before they allow residence. But if this process is left unregulated, it may lead to discrimination against ex-convicts genuinely finding ways to live a new life.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released guidelines in 2016 about using criminal records for housing transactions. It provides safety processes to prevent discriminatory acts against people with criminal records.

The HUD guidelines oblige property owners to treat each potential tenant’s application case-to-case basis.

The guidelines also focus on the impact of rental or housing denial on people with criminal records, indicating reasons for such actions should be based on substantial and legitimate interest.

What Are the Rights of a Person With a Criminal Record?

There are limitations even if property owners have the right to investigate possible tenants and deny them renting a home or an apartment. People with criminal records still have rights enforced all over the country.

  • Arbitrary discrimination: It’s a federal law violation to ban people with any criminal records from buying or renting a property because of any basis that is not legitimate.

The law requires that you have nondiscriminatory, substantial, and legitimate reasons for denying anyone rent of your property. So, banning everyone with a criminal record from renting a house or buying one is an illegal and federal offense. It’s called a blanket ban, which goes against the rights of a person with a criminal record.

  • Unfair or discriminatory treatment: Federal law prevents anyone from arbitrarily choosing who to allow or deny rent or purchase of a housing property for discriminatory reasons.

An example of discriminatory treatment is when landlords deny rent of their apartments to African-American people with criminal records while allowing other races rentals with the same case.

  • Disparate impact: Though, as a group, people with criminal records are not explicitly protected by the Fair Housing Act that protects people of other ethnicities from housing discrimination, it doesn’t mean a landlord can ban everyone with a criminal record from renting their property.

A blanket ban is illegal because ethnic minority makes up most people in the country’s criminal justice system, and an overreaching ban automatically becomes discriminatory.

  • Past alcohol or drug addiction: A landlord, property manager, or owner can’t deny anyone with a substance abuse record, as it is under a protected disability status.

But, they can deny people if there is concrete evidence that the person with a criminal record is still currently using drugs or is an alcoholic. Each case should be treated individually, and a property owner can’t simply place a blanket ban on anyone with a criminal record.

Anyone that does this may face federal offense, especially if the person with a past criminal record files a complaint.

What Is the Purpose of Criminal Records?

If people continue to have rights after they’re released from prison, why is it necessary to maintain a criminal record in a public database that anyone can access? Does it make those people prone to discrimination because of those records?

A criminal record is an information sheet that details a person’s convictions and arrests. It also contains personal information like fingerprints and photos in a database accessible to anyone.

The purpose of a criminal record is to aid people in their investigation and keep track of offenders, especially those convicted of violent crimes. A criminal record also helps the judicial system determine cases for people with prior convictions.

If you’re asking whether there’s a way to “erase” these records, especially if you’re on the path toward living a new life, the answer is yes. There is a way, though you can’t have your records completely erased or expunged, you can have them sealed.

Once your records are sealed, no house owner or landlord can search for your records and see them. You’re also not obligated to reveal your records to anyone once it’s sealed.

But not all criminal records can be sealed. You are only eligible for this process if you haven’t had another crime on your record or completed your sentence or probation period. Also, if you’re not a sex offender, your records can be dismissed or sealed in drug and substance abuse cases.

So, suppose you’re already on the road to a new life and want to settle in places like New York City or Miami Florida. In that case, you can consult your lawyers to help you check your criminal records. These professionals can advise what action to take to prevent your past mistakes from affecting your future.

We hope you found this blog post on Can I Be Refused an Apartment Because of My Criminal Record? useful. Be sure to check out our post on Documents You Should Have Ready When Moving To Australia for more great tips!

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