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Rental policies and criminal records

The consequences of a criminal record in Phoenix may continue for decades. Beyond the initial penalties, those with criminal charges may suffer every time they are required to submit to a background check. This can affect their ability to find a job and a place to live, even though many people who have been charged with a crime would not be considered a danger to those around them.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a criminal record may not necessarily be used as a blank check to deny housing to an applicant. The federal agency now wants landlords to reconsider the intent behind their rental policies. The primary focus of reviewing an applicant’s criminal record should be whether allowing him or her to rent the home would put others in the neighborhood in danger.

A landlord could be guilty of racial discrimination if he or she accepts applications from Caucasians who have a criminal background, but refuses to consider a person of color with a similar record. However, even a consistent policy of refusing those with criminal records could result in discrimination, which may lead to a violation of the Fair Housing Act. This is reflective of the fact that African American and Hispanic people are disproportionately represented in the justice system.

Arrests and criminal charges vary widely based on who is involved and how the circumstances are interpreted by law enforcement officials, the prosecuting attorney and the judge. A criminal defense attorney in Arizona may be able to assist those who find themselves facing charges.

Source: NPR, “Denying Housing Over Criminal Record May Be Discrimination, Feds Say,” Camila Domonoske, April 4, 2016

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