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Can You Be Denied Housing For Pending Charges?

Can you be denied housing for pending charges? The answer is, yes, a landlord can say no to you because of pending charges.

This question often comes up when people need to move while they’re waiting for their trial to start or while their criminal case is still underway. 

Having an unresolved case and charges hanging over your head puts you in a tough spot, and you’re no doubt dealing with a lot of worry and uncertainty at the moment.

Let’s get some more details to help you understand how pending charges may affect your rental application.

Do Pending Charges Show Up On A Background Check?

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Pending charges and arrest records will usually be reported on your background check. 

Background check agencies receive data from police departments and courts about arrests and charges regularly, and many jurisdictions provide their latest data on a daily or weekly basis. 

If your landlord checks county court records themselves or uses a tenant screening agency that searches county court records directly, your pending charge will almost certainly appear on your report.

If the screening agency only checks at the state level, your pending charge may take several weeks or even longer to appear because of the delay in updating records. 

Some states don’t allow pending charges to be reported on background checks or limit what may be reported. Arkansas, for example, only allows felony pending charges to be reported.

Run a search online to look up the specific laws in your state.

See more: Is It Illegal To Deny Housing To A Felon?
See more: Can A Landlord Do A Walk-Through Without You?

Will Landlords Deny Housing Because Of A Pending Charge 2024?

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While landlords can deny your application because of a pending charge already filed against you, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will.

The landlord’s tenant screening policy will detail which offenses are disqualifying. To comply with the Fair Housing Act, landlords can’t use blanket bans to disqualify any applicant with a criminal record.

If the crime you’ve been charged with isn’t on their list of disqualifying offenses, a landlord shouldn’t reject you because of your pending charge.

An exception to this could arise if your pending charge is likely to result in a custodial sentence. In this case, the landlord might deny you because you would be unable to pay your rent during a period of incarceration. Having a co-signer or guarantor would help in this situation.

The rules are broadly similar for both private rentals and public housing applications.

Using Arrest Records In Tenant Background Screenings

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Landlords can’t refuse to rent to you solely based on an arrest record.

If you’ve been arrested and charges haven’t yet been filed by the prosecutor, landlords should request further information about the arrest to help them determine if you engaged in criminal activity. 

The landlord or property manager will need to request a copy of the police report so they can understand the circumstances surrounding the arrest and the amount of evidence against you.

When a prosecutor is still evaluating your case, they could decide to dismiss the changes on the police report, reduce the charges, or even add extra charges.

You should also check to find out if your state or city has passed laws preventing landlords from using arrest records when they make a housing decision.

Landlord’s Tenant Screening Policies Must Be Lawful

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When landlords and property managers carry out tenant background screening they’re doing so to eliminate risks to themselves, their other tenants, their property, and their business.

Landlords want tenants who pay their rent on time every month, take care of the rental property, and behave safely and respectfully towards staff and other tenants. Often landlords may need to exclude certain offenders to comply with terms of their liability insurance.

Even so, landlords have to comply with laws that govern the use of criminal background checks.

Federal law in the form of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) sets out certain types of housing discrimination which are unlawful. 

In addition to the FHA, other state laws and city laws may limit how background check information can be used.

In Seattle, for example, landlords can look into a renter’s background, but can’t disqualify renters based on their criminal history.

What Does The Fair Housing Act Say About Pending Charges?

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The FHA doesn’t mention pending charges, but it does prohibit basing a housing decision solely on an arrest record because an arrest doesn’t establish guilt.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guides how landlords should comply with the FHA. This guidance discourages landlords from using criminal history to make housing decisions.

HUD guidance also stresses that landlords can’t use blanket bans to disqualify applicants with criminal records. Instead, landlords must have a clear tenant acceptance policy detailing which offenses are disqualifying. 

Landlords should carry out an individualized assessment of the background check results and provide you with the opportunity to present mitigating evidence in your favor.

When criminal history is used to screen tenants the screening policy and disqualifying criteria should serve a substantial, legitimate, non-discriminatory, interest of the landlord or housing provider. In other words, the policy’s aim should be to protect residents or property rather than to exclude individuals just because the landlord doesn’t want to rent to offenders.

What to Do If You’re Denied Housing Due To Pending Charges

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If you’re turned down for a rental because of your pending charges, you can ask the landlord or housing provider to reconsider their decision. 

Under the FHA, rental rejection notices must be provided in writing, state why you were rejected, and inform you of your right to ask for information about the rejection or request a meeting within 14 days.

You can download a free template letter from the Housing Center to send to landlords if you want to find out if they gave you fair consideration. Get it from https://www.thehousingcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Appealing-Criminal-Background-Denial-for-Housing-Form-Letter.pdf

Renters with criminal backgrounds often have better luck searching for rentals on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. The landlords on these sites are often individual property owners with less strict tenant screening policies. Some don’t run any background checks at all.

Long-stay hotels are another option you might consider while your case is being dealt with. You can find listings for these on your local Craigslist. You will need a credit card to rent a room but they don’t run background checks. All utilities are included, rooms have a kitchenette, and some take pets.

Quick Recap

Private landlords and public housing authorities may deny you housing based on pending charges. The pending charges should be for offenses listed as disqualifying in the landlord’s tenant acceptance policy.

If your charges are likely to result in a custodial sentence you may denied housing if you are unable to pay your rent and therefore likely to break your lease conditions.

Some states and cities don’t allow pending charges to be included in background reports. So check to find out the situation in your area.