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Challenging a Denial

What happens if I am denied housing?

Whether it is public, subsidized or market-rate housing, before a housing authority, landlord, public housing authority, property management company, or real estate agent denies an application because of an applicant’s CORI, criminal history, or CORI or criminal history information received from a Consumer Report they must first:21

  • Notify you that they plan to deny you housing,
  • Give you a copy of the CORI or background report that they got,
  • Tell you what part of your CORI or background report is a problem,22
  • Provide you with information about how to fix mistakes on your CORI,
  • Give you the chance to dispute the accuracy of the CORI.23

Landlords, property management companies, and real estate agents must also provide you with a copy of their CORI policy.24

What happens if I am denied public or subsidized housing?

In addition to the above, if you are applying for public housing or privately owned subsidized housing, a housing authority or property management company must give you information about how to challenge or appeal the denial of housing.25

If you are applying for public housing and subsidized housing you have a right to explain to a housing agency that there are circumstances which show that you will not engage in similar wrongful conduct in the future. In public housing, if you are denied housing, you also have a right to a hearing. The letter denying your application should have instructions about how to a request a hearing.

In subsidized housing you have a right to request a meeting with a person other than the one who made the original decision. If MassHousing Finance Agency has oversight of the subsidized housing, you may also request an MHFA conference.

Different housing authorities may have different policies for deciding if a person with a CORI may rent an apartment. Generally, if a person has recent convictions for drug-related crimes or violent crimes, he or she may be disqualified from public or subsidized housing. But again, you have a right to a hearing to try to convince a housing authority that you will not engage in wrongful conduct in the future. You can also show the housing authority any letters of recommendation that you have, such as the sample “changed person” letter.

For more information see: Tenant Screening and Challenging a Denial of Housing in Legal Tactics: Finding Public and Subsidized Housing.

What if I have a housing voucher and am denied housing?

If you have a housing voucher, the landlord can also screen you, even if the housing authority decided not to deny you a voucher because of your CORI. Before a landlord can deny your application because of your CORI, criminal history, or CORI or criminal history information received from a Consumer Report they must first:26

  • Notify you that they plan to deny you housing,
  • Give you a copy of the CORI or background report that they got,
  • Tell you what part of your CORI or background report is a problem,27
  • Provide you with information about how to fix mistakes on your CORI,
  • Give you the chance to dispute the accuracy of the CORI.28

The landlord may also be required to have a CORI Policy and if so, must provide you with a copy of this policy.29

Can I be denied housing based on other records besides CORI?

If a housing authority or landlord is aware of wrongful or illegal activity of a person applying for housing it may try to use this information to show that a household member is likely to disturb neighbors. In other words, you may be denied housing based not on a CORI report, but on evidence uncovered through other public records, such as police blotters and arrest reports in newspapers. You can challenge this denial. For more information see: Challenging a Denial of Housing in Legal Tactics: Finding Public and Subsidized Housing.

Endnotes

21. See 803 CMR 5.15(1) for how landlord’s, property management companies and real state agents must handle adverse actions based on CORI. See 803 CMR 5.15(2) for how public housing authorities and property management companies administering subsidized housing must handle adverse actions involving CORI. See 803 CMR 5.15(3) for how landlords, property management companies and real estate agents must handle adverse actions based on criminal history information other than CORI. See 803 CMR 5.16(2) & (3) for how adverse actions based on consumer reports should be handled.

22. 803 CMR 5.15(1)(e).

23. For regulations pertaining to landlords, property management companies, and real estate agents see 803 CMR 5.15(1)(d) and (3)(d). While 803 CMR 5.15(2), which pertains to housing authorities and property management companies operating subsidized housing, does not specifically require that a housing authority or management company give out the CORI policy, they must have a CORI policy if they do more than five CORI’s , see 803 CMR 5.07, and you can request this.

24. 803 CMR 5.15(1)(d) and (3)(d). Under 803 CMR 5.07, any landlord, property management company, real estate agent or public housing authority that conducts more than five CORI background checks a year from the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services or any other source, must have a written CORI policy.

25. 803 CMR 5.15(2)(d).

26. See 803 CMR 5.15 for how landlord’s, property management companies and real state agents must handle adverse actions based on  CORI. See 803 CMR 5.15(2) for public housing authorities and property management companies administering subsidized housing s must handle adverse actions involving CORI. See 803 CMR 5.15(3) for how landlords, property management companies and real estate agents must handle adverse actions based on criminal history information other than CORI. See 803 CMR 5.16(2) & (3) for how adverse actions based on consumer reports should be handled.

27. 803 CMR 5.15(1)(e).

28. For regulations pertaining to landlords, property management companies, and real estate agents see 803 CMR 5.15(1) and (3). For regulations pertaining to housing authorities and property management companies operating subsidized housing see 803 CMR 5.15(2).

29. 803 CMR 5.15(1)(d) and (3)(d). Under 803 CMR 5.07, any landlord, property management company, real estate agent or public housing authority that conducts more than five CORI background checks a year from the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services or any other source, must have a written CORI policy.

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

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