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If I am applying for housing, who can ask for my CORI?

If you are applying to rent housing — whether it is subsidized housing or market-rate housing — the following people or entities may request your Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) from the state:

  • a public housing authority or government agency that oversees any federal or state-funded public or subsidized housing, 
  • an individual private landlord,
  • a management company that owns housing or works for an owner, or
  • a real estate agent that works for a landlord or management company.1

Exactly what information is on the CORI report depends upon who is asking for it. For more, read: What information is in a CORI report?

Do I need to give permission to have my CORI checked?

Yes. A housing authority, landlord, property management company, or real estate agent may check your CORI only if you sign a form that says you know that they are requesting your CORI.

This form is called a CORI Acknowledgement Form. It requires your full name, date of birth, and, if available, the last six digits of your Social Security number.2 It also asks you for other personal information such as your parents' names. This is try to make sure that it is not some one else’s CORI that is sent out.

When you complete the CORI Acknowledgement Form, you must show identification to prove your identity.3 If you are unable to appear in person to provide identification or sign the form, you may submit a completed CORI Acknowledgement Form signed by a notary public.4 You can contact the owner and ask whether they would accept a fax copy or whether they need you to mail the original document with the notary’s seal. In either case, always make sure that you keep a copy for your records.

What if I don’t give permission to have my CORI checked?

If you do not give permission to allow a housing authority, landlord, manager, or agent to check your CORI, it is likely that they will deny or not process your housing application.

Can I be asked to bring my own CORI?

No. It is against the law for anyone to ask you to bring them a copy of the CORI report that you get.5 The reason is because the CORI that you get on your own can include cases that housing authorities, landlords, property management companies, and real estate agents are not allowed to see on a CORI that they get.

However, a public housing authority may ask you to get a copy of your “Docket” sheet from the court. A “docket” sheet is not considered CORI. But it may be to your advantage to provide the housing authority with a docket sheet because the docket sheet may show that a charge was not serious or it was reduced to a lesser charge or that the case was dismissed.

Can I be asked questions on my application about whether I have criminal history?

A housing authority, landlord, property management company, or real estate agent may have a question on the application form which asks if you have a criminal history or have been convicted of a crime. You should answer the question as truthfully as you can. However, you may not know the answer to the question, or the answer may be wrong. A false answer on an application may be a basis to deny your application.

For example, it may be that you think you were not convicted, but you were. Or you think the charge was a misdemeanor, but it was a felony.  If you say you were convicted, and a case doesn’t show up because it was sealed, this may raise questions. One way to answer the question about your criminal history is to say: “I am not sure how to answer this.  You can look up my records.”

This answer is consistent with the new CORI regulations which state that a housing authority, landlord, property management company or real estate agent cannot ask you any questions about your CORI until they give you a copy of the CORI or any other criminal history information that they have received.6

Can a CORI be requested on all household members?

If you are an applicant for public and subsidized housing, you are screened according to state and federal rules. The rules provide that:

  • For federal or state public housing, the housing authority may ask for CORI of all household members.7
  • For market-rate housing that has project-based Section vouchers from a housing authority, the housing authority is responsible for screening and reviewing the CORI of applicants and all household members. (Project-based vouchers are vouchers that stay with a property, although an eligible tenant may be able to move with a voucher after a year of assistance.)
  • For market rate units with mobile vouchers the new CORI rules specifically state that no landlord, property management company or real estate agent may request CORI on household member other than the applicant.8 They can, however, do background checks on all household members through consumer reporting agencies. (A mobile voucher stays with the tenant, not the property. If the tenant moves, the voucher comes with the tenant.) For more see: Can a consumer report be used to access my CORI?
  • For market rate housing, a landlord, property management company or real estate agent may ask for only the housing applicant’s CORI, the individual who is applying to rent, and not for the CORI of other household members.9

For more about screening in public and subsidized housing, go to: Tenant Screening.

Are there other ways to get my Massachusetts criminal history information?

Yes. Arrest records or court appearances may appear in public records, such as police blotters. These are covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This is not CORI. But these records do not usually show the final result of a criminal charge (which courts refer to as the “disposition”).

Some consumer reporting agencies compile arrest records and court appearances and share it with landlords. So the consumer reporting agency or landlord may inform you that there was some negative information, but that negative information may not be the final result of a case.

You have the opportunity to respond to a landlord and, for example, show that the criminal charge was dismissed. If you don’t respond, the landlord may use the negative information to deny you, even though it does not show that you were convicted.

If you are a registered sex offender, then it may be that information about your status is posted on the Internet or at a local police station. 

If my record was sealed, do I need to provide proof that it was sealed?

If you have a record and it has been sealed and a consumer reporting agency is listing this record, you should ask the consumer reporting agency in writing to update its information, remove the record from its report because it is not correct. You should also request that any action on a potential denial of eligibility be suspended until the consumer reporting agency has complied with your request.

Endnotes

1. 803 CMR 5.02, see definition s of Public Housing Authority, Landlord, Property Management Company, and Real Estate Agent.

2. 803 CMR 5.06(6).

3. A housing applicant’s identity shall be verified by a landlord, property manager, real estate agent, or public housing authority examining a government-issued identification. This includes a state driver’s license, state ID card with photo, passport, or military identification. 803 CMR 5.06(3). If a housing applicant does not have acceptable government-issued identification, a landlord, property management company, real estate agent, or public housing authority shall verify the housing applicant’s identity by other forms of documentation as determined by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. 803 CMR 5.06(4)

4. 803 CMR 5.06(5).

5. M.G.L. c. 6, Section 172(a)(30)(d). Except as authorized by this section, it shall be unlawful to request or require a person to provide a copy of his criminal offender record information. Violation of this subsection is punishable by the penalties set forth in section 178.

6. 803 CMR 5.11(1)(a). In addition, a housing authority, landlord, property management company or real estate agent must provide the housing applicant with the source of other criminal history information. 803 CMR 5.11(1).

7. Public housing authorities and property management companies that run subsidized housing programs shall screen housing applicants for subsidized housing only as provided by state and federal law. 803 CMR 5.05(3). State Public Housing: 760 CMR 5.08 requires that LHAs, in making their final determination, “shall determine if applicant and household members are qualified for public housing.” Federal Public Housing and Section 8: 24. CFR 5.403 defines “applicant” to mean a person or a family that has applied for housing assistance.

8. 803 CMR 5.04(3). Under 803 CMR 5.02 “Market Rate Housing” is defined as “housing for which the landlord or property management company receives a subsidized housing voucher.” 

9. 803 CMR 5.04(3)


Produced by Annette Duke, MLRI. Reviewers Linda Garcia and Mac McCreight, GBLS
Created November 2012


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