If you are facing criminal charges in the State of Texas, you know that a conviction will have severe negative consequences in your life. You may not be aware, however, of the full range of those negative consequences. In fact, a conviction can diminish your ability to rent a new apartment or home. It is well within a landlord's rights to run a criminal background check on all rental applicants. The landlord, however, must remain within certain legal parameters.
Safe, Affordable Housing
Because of criminal background checks, finding safe, affordable housing in a family-friendly neighborhood once you have a criminal record can be extremely difficult. If your rental application is rejected by a potential landlord, he or she must follow a specific protocol that includes:
- Providing you with notice of the rejection either verbally, electronically, or in writing
- Providing you with the contact information for the company that conducted your background check
- Providing you with a notification about your legal right to correct any errors on your report and to obtain a free copy of your report – upon your request – within 60 days of being rejected.
Further, it is considered discrimination if the landlord turns you away before you fill out a rental application. If you have been rejected prior to a background check or if you believe you have been discriminated against by a landlord or by a property manager for any reason – including race, religion, or sexual orientation – the Federal Trade Commission advises you to report the situation to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Keeping Your Record Clean
The best way to protect yourself from the negative effects of a criminal record is naturally to keep your record clean. If you have been charged with a crime, do not leave your record to chance – work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you already have a record, however, all is not lost. The State of Texas recognizes that none of us is perfect, and they have an expunction system in place to work as a counterbalance for past errors or lapses in good judgment. An expunction can effectively seal your record in certain circumstances, which renders your record inaccessible to potential landlords in the future. While DUIs are notably not eligible for expunction, Texas has passed recent legislation that allows such records to be sealed in specific situations.