Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ex-Cons: Can They Rent?

Landlords have, for a long time, understood the anti-discriminatory laws in Washington that come with the job. In accepting tenants who have applied for rentals, landlords are unable to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disabilities, or honorably discharged vets. They can, however, discriminate on the basis of criminal history. In recent weeks, social-justice groups and offenders are hoping to change this. One of their main arguments is that ex-offenders who are denied housing only increase the homeless population in the city. The Seattle Times’ article on the subject profiled one woman who has been denied housing after being charged 4 years ago for second-degree robbery. Her then boyfriend robbed a bank, and after not calling the police, was sentenced and served 6 months in jail. The goal of activist groups is to have people convicted of nonviolent and nonsexual crimes put on a protected list, so as they cannot be discriminated against when applying for housing. The director of the civil rights office believes that although this type of discrimination won’t be banned outright, landlords will have some discretion based on the history. However, the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound fears this outcome because it takes away the power landlords have in the selection of a tenant. The association’s president also made a smart comment on the fact that a criminal history often comes from choices a person has made, as opposed to traits such as race and age. Thus, it makes sense to consider any and every conviction the applicant has. Others who back the proposal believe that giving an ex-offender housing after time served provides them stability and proper settling, as 98% of prisoners are eventually released back into society. Some programs in the state make it easier for ex-cons to get housing like the Landlord Liaison Program, which pay some of the property damages and unpaid rent, if there is a lease default. Other states in the nation have already imposed laws that ban the discrimination, and Washington may soon be joining that list.


Post a Comment