Justice 4 Housing


Housing Search Tips

Don’t Apply to Large Massachusetts Property Management Companies

Don’t waste your time by applying to large Massachusetts property management companies. Multiplex communities normally do not accept tenants with a criminal background. Stick to looking on Craigslist, working with HUD or your local housing authority, and applying to programs that assist felons in reentry.

Review Your Own Criminal Record

Before you begin a diligent housing search, take some time and run a criminal history check on yourself. That way you can better prepare yourself for negotiating a lease and applying for transitional housing. It takes a couple minutes to run the search and you are only charged a minimal fee. Use your record as a resource to better communicate with a potential property manager or landlord. You can start the process now by following this link.

Why Felons Are Discriminated Against When They Apply for Housing

If you feel that being turned down for an apartment rental is unfair because of your record, you are not alone. Felons are regularly turned down for rental housing in large apartment communities in Massachusetts and all the other states in the US. That is because felons are not considered part of a protected class.

According to the Fair Housing Administration, individuals who apply for housing that are turned down because of their national origin, sex, ethnicity, race, religion, family status or disability, can sue a property manager if he or she turns them down for housing for any of these reasons. However, a landlord is in their right to turn down a felon if he or she believes the applicant’s criminal history might pose a threat to his or her community.

Property managers in Massachusetts and all the other US states can also discriminate against applicants who have past evictions or have not paid their rent. When discrimination is based on a business transaction and fact, then it is never considered illegal and therefore is allowable by law.

How Illegal Discrimination is Handled

Legal discrimination becomes illegal when a property manager denies a housing applicant a rental based on their own biases. Therefore, any property manager who turns an applicant away because they have a personal prejudice towards the applicant’s ethnicity, family status, race, religion, national origin, disability or sex can be sued for illegal discrimination. When discrimination is mentioned then, you cannot assume it is automatically illegal. You have to look at the basis for the practice.

One case in point – A felon who applies for a rental who was charged with the illegal use of drugs because of a mental or physical disability actually is in their right to rent the unit. That is because their charge stemmed from a disability – which is categorized as a protected class under the law.

Basically, though, if you are a felon, expect to regularly be turned down by large apartment communities, especially if your charge is recent or you were convicted of a violent crime. Also, if you are a sex offender or served time for the manufacture of methamphetamine, you generally cannot apply to apartment complexes or to HUD agencies or local housing authorities. Read more about illegal discrimination by referring to NOLO online.

The Fair Housing Act as It Applies US Felons

Generally, discrimination is illegal when a property manager or landlord makes a rental decision, based on an applicant’s national origin, family status, sex, ethnicity, religion, race or disability. Most felons are denied housing based on their felon history alone. If the reason for the felony, however, is based on a protected classification, such as a disability, then the felon is in their legal right to rent an apartment.

Arbitrary Discrimination

While property managers can reject a felon’s housing application, based on the applicant’s record, they also must make sure their decision is one that is based purely on fact. Any decision that extends to a protected class, such as ethnicity, sex, family status, national origin, disability or religion, can be cause for a lawsuit against the landlord.

For example, if a landlord rents an apartment to a felon who is from the US but does not rent a unit to a felon from another country, he or she could get in trouble for arbitrary discrimination. The choice to rent or not to rent a residence must be based, again, on fact alone, not on the property owner’s personal preferences. Landlords, by law, are required to follow the regulations and statutes set up by the Fair Housing Administration. You can read more about arbitrary discrimination by following this link.

Massachusetts Apartment Listing on Craigslist

Once more, Craigslist is an excellent resource for obtaining a rental home. Usually, landlords are entrepreneurs or small real estate investors. Therefore, they may not even run a background check. Even if they do run a criminal history check, they are easier to communicate with than property managers at larger communities.

To review the Craigslist Massachusetts postings for housing, you will need to click on this link. Next, select the city or town where you would like to live. Click on the “housing” section at the top of the Craigslist page to obtain the apartment and house leasing information. To streamline your efforts, add the rental range.

Reentry Programs in Massachusetts

The best way to begin any housing search is to review the reentry listings for Massachusetts that have been compiled by the JobsForFelonsHub.com site. You can also obtain transitional housing options through these programs while you are looking for a permanent place to stay.

The Massachusetts Religious Community

You can also inquire about housing leads by talking to your local pastor or contacting organizations that are faith-based. You might also think about working as a volunteer for a community-based organization. You can obtain leads for jobs and rentals through this venue as well.

Referrals From Friends and Family

Families and friends can also give you job and housing references. Just don’t ask the people who are close to you to lease an apartment on your behalf. If a landlord finds out that you are living as a “tenant” in an apartment but your name is not on the lease, you can get evicted or sued.

Additional Felon Housing Search Tips

Making Your Transition Work

While some felons look at transitioning from prison life to be a stressful time, others use it as an opportunity to better themselves and look forward to the future. Start the house search process then by looking your best. Stop at the local thrift store to pick out a professional wardrobe. Next, schedule several appointments to look at house rentals or apartments. If you are dressed professionally, it will make it easier to communicate in a business-like manner as well.

Stick to A Routine

Once you obtain a rental, make sure you stick to a normal schedule. That means going to work each day or planning a day looking for jobs in the mainstream. If you need more education to obtain a certain job, inquire about the training. Refer to reentry listings and ask family and friends to assist you in your job search or educational activities. This is a time in your life when you can use your second chance to make a new and more productive life for yourself.