White females have been shown favoritism by landlords in Washington over their black female counterparts. The study in to tenants with criminal records by the Equal Rights Center was released on the 18th October. Both white and black female applicants had similar backgrounds. White female (applicants) tenants with criminal records were preferred in 47% of test cases. The Equal Rights executive director put forward that the practices and policies of tenant screening serves as no more than a proxy for racial disparity. Irrespective of whether it is intended or not unlawful housing discrimination must cease. The study sought to introduce single females to landlords with a set criteria. The females were to make it clear they had an arrest or conviction and they would specifically request details for a studio or 1 bed apartment.

To avoid a disproportionate view on some neighborhoods sites were selected throughout the district. This also provided a more rounded view of the problem. Criminal records ranged from college felonies within 7 years and larceny from within 11 years. Black female tenants with criminal records were told by letting agents that they would not be approved. However contrary prospective white tenants were advised the records didn’t rule them out dependant on the date of the conviction. The association representing landlords wasn’t aware of the mystery shopping trip. They confirmed it’s members were committed to providing equal housing to all including tenants with criminal records. Potential renters who feel they have been discriminated against can take their complaint to The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. Landlords should be fully aware of exactly what constitutes discrimination.

The mystery shopping trip uncovered management companies and agents who represented almost 5000 units had established a complete ban on tenants with criminal records. This directly violates the HUD directive which states any agent denying housing due to a conviction must be able to demonstrate a “substantial, legitimate” reason for doing so. A complete ban on those that have served time is racial discrimination and violates The Fair Housing Act.

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