Texas Law protects landlords who lease to non-violent ex-offenders

A new law protects Texas landlords from liability when they lease apartments to persons with a non-violent criminal history.

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which backed House Bill 1510 in the 2015 Legislature, has published a set of guidelines to help both landlords and potential tenants understand their rights under the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1.

Doug Smith, a policy analyst with Texas CJC, says the aim is to keep people who’ve served their time from going back to prison.

“Two of the factors that are most associated with recidivism, with increased likelihood that someone will be rearrested or go back to prison, are employment instability and housing instability,” says Smith.

He says the law was formulated along with the Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition and other groups as diverse as the ACLU and the Texas Association of Business. The guide instructs landlords about how the law works to protect them when they lease a dwelling to a tenant with a record. Another guide is written to instruct advocates and individuals seeking housing.

Smith says in the past, many property owners have had a general ban on leasing to persons with criminal records. He says that while the law does not require landlords to rent to ex-offenders, he’s hoping it will change at least some minds.

“For landlords it really raising awareness that the threat of liability is not there,” says Smith. “And if they take a risk on someone who might have a non-violent offense, they don’t have to be concerned that they might get sued by other tenants within that community.”

The new guidelines are being distributed to property managers and landlords across the state, as well as advocacy groups and others. Copies of the guidelines are available at texascjc.org

Author: Mark Richardson, Public News Service