The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued guidance this week that warns landlords against barring anyone with a criminal record from renting their properties.

Landlords violate the Fair Housing Act by imposing blanket bans on anyone who has a prior arrest or criminal conviction, the department concludes.

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The 10-page guidance explains that the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing practices that discriminate against people because of their race, even unintentionally.

“Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African Americans and Hispanics,” the agency wrote. “While the Act does not prohibit housing providers from appropriately considering criminal history information when making housing decisions, arbitrary and overbroad criminal history-related bans are likely to lack a legally sufficient justification.”

The guidance explains that landlords must tailor their policies to take into account when a crime was committed and what it was, and will be required to prove that any potential discriminatory impact is justified.

Learn more at the New York Times.

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