Criminals get boost in renting rights from federal government - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Criminals get boost in renting rights from federal government

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Gavin Thornton (Image: Hawaii News Now) Gavin Thornton (Image: Hawaii News Now)
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

New guidance from the federal government issued this week offers a huge help for people with criminal records trying to get their lives back on track.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says landlords who impose "blanket bans" against anyone with a criminal conviction violate the Fair Housing Act.

Gavin Thornton with Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice said it's because sometimes it unintentionally discriminates against a person's race.

"There are studies out there that show that when you have one race compared to another race, they've committed the same exact crime, one race is sentenced more harshly than the other," Thornton said.

Thornton said this doesn't mean landlords have to accept convicted felons, but they have to at least look into it.

"If someone has a criminal record, the landlord can consider it, there's not a problem with that. The only problem is like you have a check box on the application it says, ‘Do you have a criminal record?’ You check the box and then they throw your application away, they can't do that," said Thornton.

Property management companies like Locations LLC says it's a balancing act because they still have a duty to their clients and neighboring tenants.

"A lot of tenants won't appreciate having a convicted felon in certain areas especially in more violent types of crimes like drug distribution that just got out a year ago. What should the length be?  I'm not sure and HUD doesn't specify," Vice President of Property Management for Locations LLC Ian Bigelow said.

Bigelow said they are consulting with their attorney and Locations LLC will be making some adjustments to their policy. He said hopefully HUD will eventually clarify which crimes and length of time since prior convictions.

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