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Q: Felons and the Fair Housing Act ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Question  
Subject: Felons and the Fair Housing Act
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: tucsonchilango-ga
List Price: $40.00
Posted: 05 Jul 2005 15:12 PDT
Expires: 04 Aug 2005 15:12 PDT
Question ID: 540288
Under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, can I
deny housing and a loan to a female applicant who is married to a
felon currently in prison (and who has no plans to divorce the man)? 
This is in a community property state, so the felon will eventually
have a property interest in the home.

Request for Question Clarification by nenna-ga on 05 Jul 2005 15:42 PDT
What state is the property located in?

Nenna-GA
Google Researcher

Clarification of Question by tucsonchilango-ga on 05 Jul 2005 16:20 PDT
The property is in Arizona, but for the purposes of the federal
statutes that shouldn't matter.  Arizona's fair housing law is
substantially similar to the FHA from what I understand.  Thanks!
Answer  
Subject: Re: Felons and the Fair Housing Act
Answered By: nenna-ga on 05 Jul 2005 19:28 PDT
 
Good evening tucsonchilango-ga  and thank you for your question.

According to the reading I?ve done on the Fair Housing Act and the
Equal Credit Opportunity Act, it is my opinion that you CAN legally
chose not to rent or sale a home and/or deny a loan to a spouse of a
convicted felon.  However, I am not an attorney and cannot give you
legal advise so if you are still in doubt, I would contact one of the
real estate lawyers in your area.

For purposes of your question, and according to Arizona State Law,
?community property? is defined as follows:

25-211. Property acquired during marriage as community property; exceptions

All property acquired by either husband or wife during the marriage is
the community property of the husband and wife except for property
that is:

1. Acquired by gift, devise or descent.

2. Acquired after service of a petition for dissolution of marriage,
legal separation or annulment if the petition results in a decree of
dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment.


The federal Fair Housing Act and Fair Housing Amendments Act (42 U.S.
Code  3601-3619, 3631) prohibit landlords from choosing tenants on
the basis of a group characteristic such as:

1.  race 
2.  religion 
3.  ethnic background or national origin 
4.  sex 
5.  age 
6.  the fact that the prospective tenant has children (except in certain    
    designated senior housing), or 
7.  a mental or physical disability. 

In addition, some state and local laws prohibit discrimination based
on a person's marital status or sexual orientation.



The Equal Credit Opportunity Act is practically the same:

15 U.S.C. 1691(a) 

(a) It shall be unlawful for any creditor to discriminate against any
applicant, with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction --

   (1) on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex or marital 
       status, or age (provided the applicant has the capacity to contract);

   (2) because all or part of the applicant's income derives from any public 
       assistance program. 



There are LEGAL forms of housing discrimination that are not protected
by the fair housing laws. They include discrimination due to bad
credit, low income, bad tenancy history and felony conviction, to name
a few. Landlords do have the right to deny housing to people who do
not qualify based on these criteria.  Be careful though.  If you are a
landlord and you rent to some tenants who do not qualify, but deny
others with the same history, they have grounds to sue for
discrimination.

= = = = = = = = = = =

?Q: Discriminating based on a criminal record - I recently applied for
a apartment and was rejected. The reason they gave me was stated in
one word: criminal. I have a felony conviction almost 10 years old. Is
this a form of discrimination?

A:  Yes, it is a form of discrimination. But unfortunately, you have
no legal protection against it.

Only certain kinds of discrimination, such as that based on race,
ethnicity, religion, family status and disability are recognized as
illegal. Many states and some localities have added others -- such as
gender and sexual orientation -- but convicted felons are not now on
any state's list. It is very unfair...but there is no law against it.?

Source:  Tenant Law Center
( http://www.tenantlawcenter.com/ask/ask8.htm )

= = = = = = = = = = 

For additional information, you can try contacting the Arizona
Department of Real Estate at:

2910 N. 44th St., Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85018   
(602) 468-1414

Website: ( http://www.re.state.az.us/ )


Or you can contact one of the Arizona Real Estate Lawyers found at Findlaw.com:

( http://lawyers.findlaw.com/lawyer/practicestate/Real%20Estate%20Law/Arizona )

I hope this answers your question.  If you would like clarification
before rating my answer, please do not hesitate to ask!

Nenna-GA
Google Researcher

Sources:

Arizona State Legislature:
( http://www.azleg.state.az.us/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/25/00211.htm&Title=25&DocType=ARS
)

Equal Credit Opportunity Act
( http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/ecoa.htm )

Project Sentinel
( http://www.housing.org/housing_discrimination_definition.htm )

Google Search Terms:

Housing discrimination
Federal Fair Housing Act
Arizona Fair Housing Act
Equal Credit Opportunity Act
Arizona Real Estate Law
Arizona State Statutes

Request for Answer Clarification by tucsonchilango-ga on 06 Jul 2005 11:13 PDT
Nenna,

Good job and thank you for your reply.  Would you be willing to answer
the following follow-up question as well for the original $40?

Your answer included "If you are a landlord and you rent to some
tenants who do not qualify, but deny others with the same history,
they have grounds to sue for discrimination."  Can you cite me a case
or some other form of authority for this?  Do I need to turn down all
convicted felons, or could I turn down only those felons convicted of,
say, child molestation?

Clarification of Answer by nenna-ga on 06 Jul 2005 12:36 PDT
Let me do some case research for you.  I will try to get back to you
by the end of the evening with, hopefully, some additional information
:)

Nenna-GA

Clarification of Answer by nenna-ga on 07 Jul 2005 12:34 PDT
tucsonchilango-ga;

While I cannot site a specific statute, law or case regarding felons
in answer to your clarification, I can give you my opinion as someone
who works in the legal profession (NOT a lawyer).

Let?s talk about discrimination.  The legal definition of
?discriminate? is 1 : to make a distinction and 2: TO USE GOOD
JUDGMENT (emphasis added by the researcher)

Source:  Websters Dictionary On-Line
( http://www.webster.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?...=discriminating )

= = = = = = = = = = = 

To categorically discriminate against someone is injurious, as in the
case of say, race, religion or age.  However, to discriminate against
an individual based on merit - such as the convicted felons, is not.

Example #1:  Discriminating against a felon convicted of animal abuse
applying for a job at an animal shelter would be an example of using
good judgment because of the relevance of the crime.

Example #2:  Discriminating against that person for a job at the local
fast food outlet is discrimination based on category (i.e., being a
?felon?).

Example #3:  Denying a felon with a degree in accounting a job at a
CPA firm, but giving the job to an 21 year old with no degree could
be, in the eyes of the first felon, discrimination.  Therefore, if he
wanted to pursue legal action based on discrimination, he has a right
to.  Would it hold up in court?  Not without evidence and convincing a
jury that you discriminated against him solely on the fact that he was
a ?felon?.

The webpage, Project Sentinel, is where I pulled the following
information, found in my answer above:

"...There are LEGAL forms of housing discrimination that are not
protected by the fair housing laws. They include discrimination due to
bad credit, low income, bad tenancy history and felony conviction, to
name a few. Landlords do have the right to deny housing to people who
do not qualify based on these criteria.  Be careful though.  If you
are a landlord and you rent to some tenants who do not qualify, but
deny others with the same history, they have grounds to sue for
discrimination.? [Re-worded by me so I didn?t plagiarize, but keeping
the same meaning.]

 ( http://www.housing.org/housing_discrimination_definition.htm )

I have emailed the director of Project Sentinel to see if THEY could
site any specific cases, laws or statutes, but in the meantime, my
understanding of what they are saying might be clearer in this news
article:

= = = = = = = = = =

"...highly qualified applicants for government jobs are being turned
down because they are too short.

Chinese law does not expressly bar height discrimination, but a case
brought by Jiang Tao came close. In December 2001, Jiang read an
advertisement for a staff position of the Chengdu Branch of the
People's Bank of China. Among the other qualifications listed, the ad
required that male applicants be over 168 centimeters in height (about
five feet, six inches), and that female applicants be over 155
centimeters (about five feet, one inch).

Jiang sued the bank in the People's Court of Wuhou District. To the
surprise of many observers, in early 2002, the court accepted the
case.

Later that same year, however, the case was dismissed on what American
lawyers would call "justiciability" grounds--that is, based on
mootness (meaning there is no remaining controversy)...

Before American readers start clucking over Chinese disrespect for
human rights, it's worth noting that the situation is basically the
same in the United States. Federal statutes bar discrimination in
employment, housing, federally funded education and other areas on
such bases as race, religion and sex, but not on the basis of height.?

Source:  Cnn.com
( http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/05/31/dorf.height.discrimination/ )

= = = = = = = = = =

If I hear back from Project Sentinel, I will definitely let you know. 
As always, if you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to
ask!

Nenna-GA
Comments  
Subject: Re: Felons and the Fair Housing Act
From: cynthia-ga on 05 Jul 2005 15:42 PDT
 
If it's an FHA loan, you may be able to:

The Fair Housing Act: Essential Protection for People with Disabilities
http://archive.aclu.org/congress/FHAdisabilities.html
In the 2nd paragraph:
..."Moreover, the FHA has never granted anti-discrimination rights to
convicted felons..."

With the applicant being married, and in a community property state, I
think you may be able to deny her, at least as far as the Fair Housing
Act is concerned in regards to an FHA loan. You need to get
professional advice though, the grey area is that it's not her, it's
her husband.

~~Cynthia

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