Owner Can Refuse to Rent to Sex Offender
Facts: A prospective resident sued two private apartment building owners for refusing to rent him a unit. The prospective resident tried to rent a unit using a voucher provided through the local PHA. But after he applied for a unit, each owner informed him that he hadn’t been approved due to his criminal background—specifically, his status as a lifetime registered sex offender.
The applicant claimed that the owners were interfering with the ability of the local PHA to operate its voucher program consistent with the Housing Act and also claimed civil rights violations. The owners asked the court to dismiss the case.
Ruling: A Texas district court granted the owners’ request and dismissed the applicant’s case.
Reasoning: Federal law prohibits “any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” from discriminating against any person on the basis of “race, color, or national origin.” Here, the applicant claimed that each owner refused to accept his housing voucher or rent him a unit because of his status as a lifetime registered sex offender. He didn’t allege that he was denied a unit on the basis of his race, color, or national origin, or any other basis. Hence, without regard to whether either owner receives any federal financial assistance, absent any allegation of discriminatory action based on one of the enumerated categories, the applicant failed to state a valid discrimination claim.
Furthermore, there’s no private right of action under the Housing Act, so the applicant can’t state any claim for relief as to the denial of his application based on his status as a registered sex offender. The statute and regulations expressly require owners to consider an applicant’s status as a sex offender before approving an application under the Housing Act. For example, federal law requires the owner of “federally assisted housing” to “prohibit admission” to such housing by “any individual who is subject to a lifetime registration requirement under a State sex offender registration program.” And the regulations pertaining to Section 8 expressly require a property owner to consider a prospective tenant’s criminal activity “that is a threat to the health, safety or property [*7] of others.”
Additionally, the regulations provide for a claim of discrimination by a Section 8 applicant on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, familial status or disability,” but make no mention of discrimination on the basis of criminal history or status as a registered sex offender.
· Williams v. Candletree Apartments, August 2014