Recommendations for Applicants with a Criminal Record

Federal housing providers must consider a number of factors when looking at criminal history. They are supposed to look at the seriousness of the offense, how long ago it happened, and what an applicant has done since that time for rehabilitation. This offers applicants a chance to address a criminal record positively when applying for affordable housing.

1: Have evidence of treatment and rehabilitation.

  • Examples of evidence are completion of a drug treatment program, participating in a job training program or maintaining steady employment.
    • Documentation can include certificates received for completing programs, job performance reviews, counselor certifications or teacher evaluations.
    • It is also helpful to have letters of support from people that can speak to an applicant's personal progress and involvement in the community.
      • Statements of support can come from your current employer, teachers, probation officers, social workers, current and former landlords, community leaders or clergy.
      • The letters should address the key points that reviewers want to know when accepting someone for housing.
      • Remember that the PHA or owner wants tenants that will not pose a safety risk to other residents. They respond best to evidence that the circumstances have improved since the conviction, that the applicant can get along with other residents and that they are motivated to continue making improvements in his or her life.
      • These statements of support can also be very important documentation if you are denied housing assistance and challenge the decision.
  • Federal housing providers also consider other factors in addition to looking at the applicant's rehabilitation and ongoing progress, such as:
    • Considering how a housing denial would have an effect on the rest of the family.
    • Circumstances due to a family member's disability.
    • Evidence of a family's willingness to participate in social service or counseling programs as a positive factor.

2: Save all criminal documentation.

  • If possible, it is helpful to scan and save your criminal records, evidence of progress, documentation of rehabilitation and letters of support.
    • You can take a picture of a document with your phone and add the pictures to free cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive.
      • Cloud based storage is basically another computer that is not physically in your presence. It is where you can store data, pictures, documents or anything you can save on a computer. These cloud services are secure and you can access your files anywhere you get cell phone or Internet connections.
    • You can also email or text message the pictures to yourself, family or friends. That way, the documents are backed up somewhere other than on your phone. If your phone were to become lost or damaged, your important documents would still be saved.

3: Accurately report criminal history.

  • When applying for federally assisted housing, applicants should make sure to accurately report their criminal history.
  • It is recommended to get a copy of your criminal record so that you know what application reviewers will see when they run a background check.