Low-Income Housing and Criminal Backgrounds in California

Low-Income Housing and Criminal Backgrounds in California

The Far-Reaching Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

Among the many consequences of a criminal conviction in California, difficulty finding rental housing is perhaps one of the most disruptive. Your options for rental housing in California can be limited by your criminal background, and this is even truer when it comes to low-income (i.e. public) housing. If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of California households that need housing assistance, a criminal background can put your housing security at risk. In fact, this is one of the reasons why many people who attempt reentry into the community following incarceration face homelessness and housing insecurity. Although unfortunate, this is a daily struggle for many with criminal backgrounds.

What Can Affect Housing Assistance Eligibility?

In general, there are only a few convictions that will permanently bar you from accessing Public Housing Authority (PHA) housing assistance: convictions that require you to register as a sex offender for life, and manufacturing methamphetamine in federally assisted living.

You can also be denied public housing if you were evicted from federally funded housing for certain crimes. In Alameda County, for example, you can be banned from PHA housing if you have been evicted from public housing for drug-related crimes within the last 3-5 years unless you have completed a PHA-approved drug treatment program.

Aside from these two convictions, many other convictions can affect your access to public housing, but some only limit your eligibility for a certain period. Typically, the PHA will only consider convictions from the last five years (unless it is one of the convictions above that will permanently bar you). Drug-related crimes, crimes considered “violent”, or any crime that could compromise the health, safety, or peace of living of other PHA occupants could bar you from publically assisted housing for a certain period.

A criminal background can even affect those who do not need housing assistance. Private rental housing is also hard to obtain for those with criminal backgrounds because private landlords can refuse to rent to people with certain convictions. Again, this contributes to the homelessness and housing insecurity problem for those with criminal backgrounds.

If you have a criminal background and need public housing assistance, you should consider cleaning your record. The PHA may still consider any dismissed convictions, so you should always disclose dismissed convictions to the PHA. Those convictions, however, may or may not bar you from getting assistance. The PHA does consider mitigating circumstances when making a decision on public housing assistance, and if the court dismisses your conviction in the interests of justice, the PHA might consider that a mitigating circumstance.

When it comes to private rental housing, a dismissed conviction might not even appear on a consumer background check, which is what many private rental agencies rely on when screening applicants. Thus, it’s a good idea to take steps to clean your record if you need rental housing in California to minimize the chance your criminal background will hold you back.

Contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney in your area today if you are facing criminal charges or have a criminal background and need public housing assistance. Disqualification for public housing is just one of the many consequences of a criminal conviction. Some consequences are short-term while others are long-term and can affect you for the rest of your life. You should ask yourself if you can afford a criminal conviction given the consequences you face. An attorney can explain what penalties the court may impose and what residual consequences you might face down the road. An attorney can also explain your options for defending yourself against your charges or help you clean your record if you have a criminal conviction that is holding you back in your life. You also have a right to bring an attorney to challenge a public housing assistance denial at a PHA hearing.

If you are facing criminal charges or have a criminal background, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can advocate on your behalf in court and can help you clean your record to minimize the impact on your life. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and won’t be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com for a free consultation.

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