EDEN eNews for Property Owners & Managers

April 2024 Issue

What the Fair Housing Center Wants Housing Providers to Know:
Fair Housing and Criminal Background Checks

click here for the online version

Guest article written by Tanesha Hunter, MPA,
Director of Education & Outreach at the Fair Housing Center for Rights & Research


As we near the end of April, on behalf of the Fair Housing Center, we want to wish you all a Happy Fair Housing Month! Every April, we celebrate fair housing month to commemorate the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the landmark civil rights law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968, that made discrimination in housing transactions unlawful.

Specifically, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on membership in groups called protected classes. These classes include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, and disability. While federal law does not prohibit criminal background screening, many formerly incarcerated individuals, face continued penalties outside of the courts by being excluded from much of the housing market. HUD recognizes racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal legal system, including disproportionate and unequal rates of arrests and convictions, and harsher sentencing of African Americans and Latinx populations in particular. The result of this disparity is a disproportionate burden on these protected classes, which can be a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Recognizing that criminal history is an inaccurate predictor of housing success, the HUD memo recommends that private housing providers avoid using criminal history altogether to screen tenants. For housing providers who choose to screen tenants using criminal background checks, HUD has provided guidance for them to do so while remaining in compliance with fair housing law.

This guidance prohibits:

  • Denying housing based on arrest records.
  • Blanket bans on anyone with a criminal record.
  • Conducting background checks inconsistently, performing them on some and not others based on stereotypes or fear.

Further, a landlord must:

  • Consider individuals on a case‐by‐case basis and evaluate the nature and severity of the crime, and consider the length of time that has passed since that crime was committed.
  • Make a determination based on facts and evidence, and not a perceived threat.

Denial Based on Criminal History

Individuals can legally be denied housing if their recent criminal record makes them dangerous and a risk to other tenants or neighbors. The denial must be based on reliable evidence and not be hypothetical or speculative. Denials also:

  • Must provide evidence proving that the housing provider has substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest supporting the denial.
  • Must show that the housing policy accurately distinguishes between criminal conduct that indicates a demonstrable risk to resident safety/property and criminal conduct that does not.

HUD regulations governing some federally‐assisted housing require two permanent bans: applicants with a lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender and applicants convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine on federally‐assisted property.

Examples of Possible Discrimination Based on Criminal Records

  • A housing provider will not rent to a tenant because they served time in prison for robbery or drug possession 30 years ago, but have not been in trouble with the law since.
  • A housing provider automatically discards any applications where the potential renter has checked the box inquiring if they have ever been convicted of a felony.
  • A housing provider uses the person’s criminal record to deny housing as a means to discriminate on another basis, such as the person’s sexual orientation, disability or national origin.
  • An individual has a criminal record due to a past drug addiction, but has since successfully completed a rehabilitation program. (Being in recovery from drug addiction is considered a disability under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, and includes additional protections, such as reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications.)

This guidance is included in The Fair Housing Center’s new toolkit, Fair Housing for People with a Criminal Record, which provides a comprehensive overview of fair housing law and information specific to criminal record-related housing barriers.
You can find the toolkit, and many other resources, brochures, and fact sheets, available in multiple languages, on our website at www.thehousingcenter.org/resources.

Fair Housing Benefits Everyone

Stable housing is an incredibly foundational part of a person’s life—and often key to overall success in all other areas of a person’s life. When folks don’t have to worry about where they lay their heads at night, they are able to devote their time and energy to improving other areas of their lives — helping themselves, their families, and their communities thrive. Studies show the positive and life-changing effects of stable, safe, and affordable housing on a person’s life. A 2020 study on the impact of criminal convictions in Cuyahoga County’s Project-Based Section 8 housing supports the reduction of housing barriers for returning citizens, saying those who obtained housing post-incarceration experienced “lower individual risks for recidivism, restored familial relationships, [and] stronger community relationships.” Children of formerly incarcerated individuals even experienced a lower risk of incarceration in their adult lives when their parents were able to obtain housing after reentering society. No matter a person’s past, every single person living in the United States should have equitable access to the most basic human right — a place to call home.

At the Fair Housing Center, we are grateful to support fair housing year-round. Our work centers around three main activities:

  • Conducting research on housing and lending patterns in Northeast Ohio and throughout the state. 
  • Enforcing fair housing laws, including compensating victims, detecting discrimination, and deterring future acts of discrimination.
  • Presenting fair housing law seminars and events for landlords, property managers, real estate professionals, social workers, attorneys, government officials, newspaper publishers, and others.

You can learn more about the Fair Housing Center at www.thehousingcenter.org. For help with specific issues and questions, or to schedule a fair housing presentation for housing providers, you can contact us at 216-361-9240 or education@thehousingcenter.org.

Communicate with us!

We value our partnership with you. EDEN cannot fulfill its mission of providing housing solutions to people facing the challenges of housing insecurities and homelessness without the support of property owners and managers like you. If you have any concerns, please reach out to our Community Housing Agents at the information line 216-503-6369 or email EdenLandlordInfo@edencle.org and we will do our best to offer solutions or refer you to the person at EDEN who can help.


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Resources for Housing Providers & Managers

Welcome Packet

Brochure for Housing Providers

Housing Provider Information Web Page

Fair Housing Center for Rights & Research

Lead Safe Cleveland
(see section for financial assistance)

Tenant & Housing Provider Duties



Past Issue Topics

Introduction to EDEN's Housing Provider Partnership Program

How to Get Started with EDEN

What Housing Providers Need to Know: Understanding Fair Housing Law

Attention All Rental Property Owners:
Access Money to Get Lead Safe With!

Understanding the RFLA:
Request for Lease Approval

Introducing New Incentives for Housing Providers with Units in Lakewood

Introducing New Incentives for Housing Providers in Northeast Ohio

The Importance of the HAP Contract

Tenant & Landlord Responsibilities

Local Governments Cracking Down on Lead, Code Violations

EDEN Rent Determination Policy for Long-Term Housing Programs

Incentives Available for Housing Providers Who Partner with EDEN

Who Can You Call When You Need Something?

EDEN Answers Your Rent Subsidy Questions

NSPIRE Set to Replace HQS Inspections


Do you own or manage units in Lakewood? EDEN has funds to help with security deposits, double security deposits, inspection repairs, and damages. Reach out to our Community Housing Agents for more info.







EDEN is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing housing solutions
to people facing housing instabilities and homelessness.
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