Finding housing with a criminal record in South Carolina is no easy task and we want to assure you that we understand your struggle. Making a checklist is useful as it helps you follow a plan of action. For example, you might include the following activities on your checklist:
Always be honest and upfront that you are a returning citizen, especially if they are going to run a background check. If someone is going to rent to you they either will or they won’t. If you say nothing and the landlord finds out down the road, it will appear as if you were being deceptive.
Make a good first impression. Dress nicely and shake their hand. Ask questions about the property and pay attention to any details that they give you.
Remember that when people hear the word felon, they automatically think you are dangerous and/or violent. Break that stereotype by explaining what and how you made a mistake in the past.
Call the local HUD office or housing authority about a permanent residence.
Buy professional looking clothing for your housing appointments. (Can be purchased at a discount retailer or local thrift store.)
Obtain a criminal history check.
If you know for sure that the landlord is not going to run a background check then you can simply not say anything unless they ask.
Don’t stress and don’t get mad. If you meet with a landlord and they will not rent to you be kind and courteous regardless. You never know what the future holds, you may very well get a call later down the road if they can’t find anyone else to rent to.
The Homeless Shelter Directory provides Homeless Shelters and Homeless Service Organizations. This website was created for people who want to find local shelter. Many shelters have waiting lists. Please call before going to the shelter.
You can receive information about transitional accommodations in South Caroling by clicking on the following link. The site is home to thousands of listings of transitional residences, many of which help people with substance abuse issues. You can sign up for housing from two weeks to two years, depending on the program.
While you cannot apply to HUD or a local housing authority if you have been convicted of certain felonies, you can use this resource if your felony did not involve the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine or a sex offense. The Housing of Urban Development or HUD works with area housing agencies to support the needs of individuals who are on low or fixed incomes and require habitable living accommodations. The apartment rental program featured by HUD is set up to compare an applicant’s income with an area’s annual median income or AMI. In turn, subsidized housing is offered that, in some cases, is free to applicants with a limited means of support.
This is the federal government's program for assisting very low income families. Since the housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find and rent privately owned housing. Eligibility for a Housing Choice Voucher is determined by the Public Housing Agency (PHA), based on total annual gross income and family size, and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status.
Craigslist offers another viable housing search solution for felons from South Carolina. Most of the posters are smaller property owners or are real estate entrepreneurs. Therefore, they tend to be less strict about leasing to prospective tenants. In order to access Craigslist for South Carolina, click on the following link. Next, click on the town or city where you wish to reside. Once you are on the site, click on “housing” at the top of the page. Narrow down your housing selection by inserting the rental range.
Government Referrals, Friends and Family
It never hurts to check with other local government offices and officials. Talk to your parole officer and see if they can help you out by giving you a list of felon friendly housing in your area. You can also talk with any reentry programs that are in your area also as they may have some leads for you. Many states also have reentry information for ex-offenders available from your states department of corrections. Don’t forget to ask friends and family if they know of any places for rent. A personal referral from a trusted person can go a long way in securing a place to live.
Apartments Featured by Large Property Management Companies
Most housing in a large apartment communities deny individuals with felons. Before applying, speak with the property manager and see what their regulations are so that you don’t waste money on an application fee and/or get disappointed. Individuals with records are regularly denied housing at large apartment complexes.
Obtain a Copy of Your Criminal History
Before you conduct a search for housing or employment, obtain a copy of your criminal history online. The cost is minimal and the information can be helpful to you when you seek transitional housing or a job. You can begin the process by following this link.
Money talks louder than you do!
Here we are talking about small time landlords, not the big corporate apartment complexes that will almost NEVER RENT TO FELONS! Landlords rent apartments for only one reason, to make money. If you can make them feel comfortable that you are financially stable and will pay your rent you have a better chance of them renting to you. If you can pay two or three months rent upfront, on the spot with cash they may make a snap decision and rent to you on the spot. I know, I know… Most people can’t afford to do this but if it helps one person its worth the 1 minute of your time I wasted.
Why Returning Citizens Are Regularly Denied Housing in South Carolina and the US
Felons are viewed as a liability or potential risk to some landlords even though that assessment is often incorrect. Therefore, a person with a past criminal record is a qualification that can be used for determining risk. As a result, a property manager is in his or her right to refuse housing if they believe an applicant could pose a threat or be viewed as a liability to a community.
Currently, no laws have been passed that prevent property managers from disqualifying felon applicants. According to the US Fair Housing Act, discriminating against a rental applicant is illegal if the decision to do so is based on the applicant’s ethnicity, race, disability, sex, national origin, religion or family status.
Age and gender can also be included, in some instances, as well. This listing represents a federal protected class of people, any of who can sue a property manager who refuses them housing out of prejudice. For a property manager to be fair, he or she must approve or deny housing based on an applicant’s income, employment, credit score or rental history.
If a property manager makes the decision not to lease an apartment because of an applicant’s race, ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, national origin or family status, he or she can be sued. According the US Fair Housing Act, housing applicants must be treated equally. This stipulation also points to felons as a group. As long as the decision to refuse housing does not extend to a federally protected class, a property manager can refuse to rent an apartment.
If you are a felon, however, whose felony charge for drug use, for instance, stemmed from a disability, then you may rent an apartment and cannot be refused. That’s because the charge and conviction originated from having a disability. Most felons, however, need to refer to HUD or other social agencies to ensure they can obtain a permanent place to live. You can read more about illegal discrimination by referring to NOLO online.
The Housing Law in South Carolina
South Carolina property managers must adhere to the laws and statutes that cover discrimination and make sure the apartments or homes they rent are livable. They must also know how to draw up leasing agreements or follow the eviction process. When housing discrimination is illegal, the property manager acts out of bias rather than reason. Again, an applicant who is denied housing should be refused based on their credit record or rental history.
Arbitrary discrimination can be illegal if a landlord leases an apartment, for example, to one felon but denies the application of another felon. If he or she is going to rent to a felon, he or she must rent to all felons. If the property manager denies the rental agreement of one felon, then he or she must refuse the application of other felons. Preferential treatment then can be defined as arbitrary discrimination. Read more about this kind of discrimination by following this link.
South Carolina Housing Authority
One of the agencies that offers subsidized rental assistance is the South Carolina Housing Finance and Development Authority. This federal program assists very low income families and individuals. Since the assistance for housing is provided on behalf of an individual or family, participants can rent privately owned housing.
Although the South Carolina Housing Finance and Development Authority is a state agency, it does not have jurisdiction over the 42 housing authorities in South Carolina. Each housing authority is a separate entity and therefore administers various leasing assistance programs. Although local housing authorities all operate under HUD guidelines, they can establish area policies for their individual programs.
The eligibility for a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) is based on gross income and family size by a Public Housing Agency (PHA). The South Carolina Housing Finance and Development Authority administers the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) for HUD in seven counties in South Carolina. These counties include Clarendon, Dorchester, Colleton, Kershaw, Fairfield, Lexington and Lee. You can also schedule an appointment for obtaining housing by contacting HUD in South Carolina or a public housing agency in your local area.
According to current data, South Carolina has 1,076 rental properties that receive at least a form of housing assistance, which are also, at least, partially reserved for low-income residents. The properties hold a projected 49,681 rental units. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which is the biggest assistance program of kind, is based on unit count. About 20,186 South Carolinians are currently helped.
Discrimination, once again, that is based on race, ethnicity, disability, religion, familial status, national origin or gender is prohibited in South Carolina.