The Fair Housing Act (FHA) applies to most private and subsidized housing (including assisted living facilities and nursing homes) and prohibits housing discrimination based on several protected characteristics including race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, and familial status. Although having a criminal record is not a federally protected characteristic, housing providers may violate the FHA by using an individual’s criminal history to deny housing to people who belong to protected classes, such as people of color or people with disabilities. Housing exclusions based on criminal history can violate the FHA through (1) disparate treatment (ex. a housing provider may have a practice of denying applicants with misdemeanor convictions if they are Black but accepting applicants with similar convictions if they are white); (2) Disparate impact (ex. blanket bans based on prior convictions); and (3) refusal to make reasonable accommodations (ex. person with schizoaffective disorder convicted of a crime related to being off his medication was not provided a reasonable accommodation in disregarding the conviction when applying for housing). Clients who have faced housing discrimination can file an administrative fair housing complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) up to one year from the date of the last act of discrimination. To learn more about FHA Protections, please see the Justice in Aging issue brief.
NSLS’ Civil Rights Project helps represent individuals on civil matters such as:
Suffolk residents can call (631) 232-2400. Nassau residents can call (516) 292-8100.
All of our offices are now open to the public and accepting walk-ins.