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How Virgina renters with criminal records may find housing

When Virginia residents with criminal histories seek housing, the should know when a landlord breaks the law. Specific steps help protect applicants from legal harm.

Renters in Virginia with criminal records deserve to know how to find housing. Not understanding their rights or not knowing what steps to take could prolong their search or make them unaware of when a property owner breaks the law. Applicants with criminal records may need to put in more effort to find a new home, but their search need not prove impossible.

Document everything

It makes sense to take thorough notes while searching for housing as a person with a criminal record. Proper documentation could help applicants identify discriminatory practices, so they should note the day and time of the visit, the name of the people they talk to when contacting the complex or building, if applications require background checks, and the cost of rent and the security deposit. Applicants may also want to note whether a property owner has vacancies during their desired move-in date.

Ask why an application fell through

If individuals with criminal histories receive a denial for an application, they deserve to ask the reason. If the landlord owes the rejection to criminal background check results, parties may ask for the consumer reporting company’s location, name and contact information. Applicants also have the right to request a copy of their criminal background check results so they see what property owners see.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, applicants also have the right to dispute inaccurate information on background check results. Sometimes, background checks do not contain essential case details, have another person’s birth date or name, include expunged or sealed records, or contain deceptive details.

Keep copies of everything

While searching for housing, those with a criminal record may want to keep a file of rental applications, listings, emails and business cards. Even after receiving approval and moving into a rental space, it still makes sense to maintain copies of documents and correspondence with the landlord, including the time and day that conversations happen.

Ask for policies in writing

If a landlord has a policy against renting to tenants with DUIs or other criminal charges, applicants may ask to see the policy in writing. They may also tell the property owner it could be illegal to implement such a broad policy. Potential tenants with criminal backgrounds may share what makes them great residents and ask the landlord to reconsider the policy and her or his application.

Virginia residents who had negative interactions with law enforcement and now face hurdles in finding housing have rights to protect. An experienced and trustworthy legal advocate may help potential residents recognize when they experience discrimination.