Barriers to Housing

Barriers to Housing

The mission of the LCBH is to promote the rights of tenant access to safe, decent and affordable housing on a non-discriminatory basis through legal representation, advocacy, education, outreach and supportive services. The Supportive Service Department allows LCBH to provide holistic services to vulnerable tenants to prevent a cycle of eviction, job instability, and homelessness. Approximately 20% of clients accepted for legal representation by LCBH’s eviction defense program are internally referred to receive supportive services. The Supportive Services team considers the individual and family needs to develop a comprehensive plan that will address barriers to maintaining permanent housing and work to achieve greater housing stability.

LCBH assesses renters’ needs, and provides assistance in locating alternative affordable housing, applying for emergency funding, screening for public benefits, and providing referrals to other essential services. As LCBH works primarily with low-income renters, affordability is the most common barrier to housing we see, but many clients face other serious obstacles that threaten their housing stability.

Poor Credit
Many of the clients we serve have low credit scores (some have no scores at all). While some private landlords may be willing to overlook this, rental agencies usually won’t. Having low credit scores results in a much smaller pool of possible apartments for our tenants to choose from. Sometimes clients with otherwise good credit can find themselves the victims of faulty or illegal reporting. This is exactly what happened to Amy. After our legal team got her eviction case dismissed and all back rent waived, Amy had trouble finding new housing. It turns out that her landlord claimed that she still owed him money and reported it to the credit reporting agencies. This ding on her report, even though false, made it very, very difficult for Amy to find a landlord who would rent to her. LCBH was able to intercede on her behalf, and Amy was eventually able to find and an apartment for herself and her children.

Tenant Screening Background Agencies
These agencies cull public records each day for eviction filings. Landlords then hire these agencies to send them their reports. When an eviction filing is listed against a person most landlords immediately assume that the filing means the tenant is “guilty” and therefore refuses to rent to the person. This turns the American system of justice – innocent until proven guilty – on its head. Even when LCBH lawyers have talked to potential landlords to explain the nature of the eviction filing, and whether it was justified or not, landlords often remain unwilling to rent to these tenants. This recently happened to Alice who was evicted as the result of a foreclosure even though she had been paying her rent in full. As prescribed by law, her case had been sealed from the public record. Unfortunately, it was still showing up on tenant screening background reports. It was only when her lawyer sent her new landlord two letters – one confirming the dismissal and sealing of the case and one confirming that the building was indeed in foreclosure – that the landlord was finally willing to consider Alice’s application.

Criminal Records
Some of the tenants we work with have criminal records, and a few have spent time in prison. These records often cause a lot of problems for renters when they go to rent a new apartment, and they usually have no recourse if someone says “no.” Alexander came to us for help, and after his legal case was settled, we worked with him to find new housing. Due to the offense for which he was convicted, the geographical areas he could live in were limited and we worked together with Alexander for nearly five months before he was able to find a permanent place to rent.