Finding a place to call home is a struggle for everyone, but for individuals with a criminal record, the search can be particularly challenging.
Every state has different laws about renting to people with criminal records, so navigating the legal landscape can be overwhelming when you’re trying to start over.
In California, this struggle is even more apparent, as the state has some of the strictest housing laws for convicted felons.
The impact of these laws hits doubly hard as the Golden State is also one of the most expensive places to reside in the United States.
However, despite the challenges, the hunt for a suitable living arrangement is far from impossible.
Let’s dive deeper into the ins and outs of how convicted felons can navigate the process of finding safe housing as they transition back into society.
How to Navigate Housing With A Criminal Conviction
If you’ve ever been convicted of a crime, you know that the experience can affect nearly every aspect of your life.
That’s especially true when it comes to finding housing, where criminal records will often show up on background checks.
While this may be an understandably frustrating experience, there are options to help you find housing and get back on your feet.
Know Your Rights: As a convicted felon in California, it’s important that you’re aware of your rights. While it is true that landlords cannot discriminate based on race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation, there are no laws against discrimination based on a criminal record.
That being said, there are certain exceptions to this rule.
For instance, a landlord cannot deny housing to someone solely based on their criminal record if the crime was non-violent and committed over a certain period.
Look for Felon-Friendly Housing: While it may feel disheartening to be turned down repeatedly by landlords, finding felon-friendly housing can make all the difference.
Felon-friendly housing typically refers to organizations and agencies that offer housing specifically for individuals with a criminal record such as non-profit organizations and religious groups.
Get a Friend or Family Member to Co-Sign: Having someone with a stable income to co-sign can make all the difference when it comes to finding housing.
As a convicted felon, landlords might be more willing to lease to you if someone with an adequate income is backing you up.
A co-signer takes responsibility for ensuring that the rent gets paid in full and on time, which gives landlords more confidence in leasing to you.
Be Honest and Forthcoming: It’s crucial to be honest about your criminal history with prospective landlords when applying for housing.
Honesty shows a sense of responsibility and can help to build trust.
Speak to the landlord or property manager and explain the circumstances surrounding your criminal history. If you have been on the right track since your conviction, be sure to mention it.
Keep in mind that criminal records status is not a protected class.
But adverse housing decisions based on a person’s criminal record may violate the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and other protected classes.
If you’re not sure what your rights are or have questions, the best thing to do is to reach out to a criminal attorney. They’ll be able to help you maneuver your way through these types of situations.
Questions? Contact us today!