The Obama administration released a warning Monday telling the nation’s landlords that it may be discriminatory for them to refuse to rent to those with criminal records.
The Fair Housing Act doesn’t include criminals as a protected class, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says refusing to rent based on a criminal record is a form of racial discrimination, due to racial imbalances in the U.S. justice system.
Landlords who violate the Fair Housing Act can be hit with civil fines amounting to thousands or millions of dollars, depending on the severity and the duration of the alleged violation.
The new guidance isn’t the first move by the Obama administration to break down perceived racial barriers in the housing market. HUD launched an effort in 2015 to encourage cities to use Section 8 and other levels to create racially-integrated neighborhoods. The effort came in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that policies which result in unintentional housing discrimination may be targeted in lawsuits.