What Does HUD Look For On Your Background Check?

What does HUD look for on your background check? If you’re applying for public housing or a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8), you’ve probably heard that some specific HUD criminal background check requirements apply.

You might be worried you won’t get approved because of your criminal history or credit score.

In reality, the HUD criminal background check requirements are very narrow, and it’s actually your local public housing authority (PHA) that will apply a stricter background check policy.

First, we’ll examine why you can be denied housing assistance because of the HUD criminal background check requirements. Then we’ll talk about PHAs and the common reasons they disqualify housing applicants.

Finally, we’ll cover how HUD’s background check policy guidance offers some protection to renters applying for housing assistance.

What Does HUD Look For On Your Background Check?

What Does HUD Look For On Your Background Check?

HUD – The Department of Housing and Urban Development – is the federal government agency responsible for funding housing assistance programs.

These housing assistance programs are provided by state and local housing agencies known as public housing authorities (PHAs).

HUD doesn’t actually carry out background checks. Instead, when you apply for public housing or a Housing Choice Voucher, you have to agree to a background check carried out by your local public housing authority.

Housing authorities set their own approval criteria, which vary depending on the housing authority in question. But no matter which housing authority you apply to, the following HUD background check rules always apply.

You will be disqualified from housing assistance programs because of HUD’s background check policy if:

  • You’ve been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine in federally-funded housing.
  • You’re a lifetime registered sex offender.

If either of those conditions apply in your case, your housing application will be automatically denied.

What Kind Of Background Check Does HUD Do?

When you apply for housing assistance, your local public housing authority will run a criminal background check on you and any other adults who will be living with you.

Although HUD only insists on rejection for the two offenses listed above, your public housing authority will have a wider set of offenses that may be disqualifying.

Some offenses may be permanently disqualifying, others will only be relevant to your application if the conviction was recent, in the last 3 or 5 years, for example.

Your local housing authority should have a full list of disqualifying offenses and timescales on their website.

Reasons Your Housing Assistance Application Could Be Denied

Reasons Your Housing Assistance Application Could Be Denied

Depending on the PHA, housing assistance applications may be denied because of convictions including:

  • Arson
  • Sale of drugs
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Violent assault
  • Homicide or manslaughter
  • Kidnapping
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Domestic violence
  • Firearms offenses
  • Fraud

This is only a short list of common disqualifying offenses. Check your local PHA website to see which offenses will lead to your application being denied.

If your housing authority bans applicants with your type of criminal offense, you’ll be able to see how long you’ll need to wait before your application will be approved.

A misdemeanor drug conviction may result in a 1-year ban, for example, while a felony drug conviction could lead to a ban of 5 or even 10 years.

Some severe offenses may result in a lifetime ban.

Does The HUD Background Check Include Your Credit Score?

Your credit score isn’t part of the HUD background check or housing authority background check.

However, if you’re applying for the Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8 voucher), your credit score may be part of the landlord’s rental application background check.

The Housing Choice Voucher program provides rent assistance to tenants renting from private landlords.

Once you’ve been approved for the program and received your voucher, you still have to find a landlord who accepts vouchers and agrees to rent to you.

Most landlords run background checks. These rental background checks include a criminal background check, a credit report, and a rental history report.

Some landlords specify a minimum credit score for approval. They’ll also look at your credit payment history, rental payment history, and your history of defaults.

If you’ve got a history of paying your rent late, or you’ve been evicted for non-payment, a landlord might reject your application.

So even though HUD isn’t interested in your credit score, and your local PHA doesn’t use your credit score for your housing assistance application, the landlords you apply to could disqualify you if you don’t meet their standards.

How HUD Background Check Policy Guidance Protects Renters

While landlords favor background checks to screen out potentially bad tenants, background checks have led to a lot of unfair discrimination in the rental market.

The Fair Housing Act doesn’t allow landlords to discriminate against renters based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Familial status

Landlords can lawfully discriminate against renters with a criminal background, however, HUD states that some discrimination could be unlawful if it results in a disparate impact on renters from minority communities who have a higher arrest and conviction rate.

HUD Background Check Guidance

To prevent unfair discrimination against renters with criminal backgrounds, HUD issued Fair Housing Act guidance for public housing authorities and private landlords.

This guidance prohibits the use of blanket bans on renters with criminal convictions. This means a landlord can’t have a rental policy that rejects all felons, for example.

When landlords reject applicants because of their criminal history, the types of offense resulting in rejection should be relevant to the security of the landlord, their employees, and their other residents.

Policies that exclude individuals with certain criminal convictions must distinguish between criminal conduct that poses a demonstrable risk to safety and criminal conduct that does not.

This means landlords need to carry out individualized criminal background assessments that look at the type and the age of the offense.

Background check policies must also be applied consistently. If an African American or Hispanic applicant was denied housing for a drug conviction, but a white person with the same conviction was approved, the landlord would be in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Housing denials cannot be based on arrest records alone. Nor should denials be based on minor offenses like petty theft, or irrelevant offenses like DUIs.

Hud Criminal Background Check Requirements – Key Takeaways

When you apply for housing assistance, your application will be denied if you’ve ever been convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine in federally funded housing or if you’re a lifetime registered sex offender.

In addition to those HUD criminal background check requirements, your public housing authority may impose bans for other types of criminal convictions.

The most serious offenses may result in a lifetime ban, while other offenses will result in a temporary ban lasting up to 10 years depending on the type of offense and the housing authority policy.

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