Can You Be Denied Public Housing Due to a Criminal Record?

Can You Be Denied Public Housing Due to a Criminal Record?
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State and federal public housing agencies can deny you assistance based on your criminal record. Some convictions lead to automatic rejection, while other types might factor in with other negative aspects of your application, such as a poor tenant history. You have the legal right to see your criminal history if a housing agency denies your application based on it and challenge the agency's decision.

Federal Housing

Federal public housing agencies will deny you for a past sex offense that resulted in your permanent registration with a state sex offender program. You'll receive a rejection if a court convicted you of producing or manufacturing methamphetamine in federal housing. Federal laws give housing agencies broad discretion over denials, so they can reject you for other criminal convictions in your history that violate their internal standards. The agency should give you a chance to review the criminal history on which they based their initial denial.

State Housing

State public housing laws vary on denial of applicants with criminal records. For example, in Massachusetts, the state public housing commission may reject your application for convictions related to serious property damage at a prior home. Convictions you have that relate to the health and safety of other people may result in housing denial. You should receive a copy of the criminal background information the agency used so you have a chance to review it for accuracy before final rejection.


You can appeal denial of state or federal public housing based on your criminal history. Denial procedures vary by agency but you should find the rules within your denial notice. The notice must list why you were denied, but if it's unclear, you have the right to ask the agency for more specific information and for copies of your application file. You will have to request an appeal by the deadline in your notice and attend a conference or hearing to plead your case. Hearing rules vary, but you usually can bring in witnesses, such as your current boss, and written statements from people you know to attest to your character.


You still might have to formally appeal the agency's decision if you discover the criminal history in your application isn't yours or has incorrect entries. You must obtain the correct history or contact the record holder to dispute false entries. You can present evidence of your rehabilitation at your appeal if your past convictions related to a substance abuse problem. While you may not have a criminal record yourself, federal and state agencies can deny your family housing if someone in your household has past convictions that violate their rules.