Lawmakers Look At Landlord Liability When Renting To Nonviolent Offenders

Apr 29, 2014

Credit Ryan Poppe / TPR News

Last session lawmakers passed a bill that provides employers liability relief when they hire nonviolent offenders. In this interim period ahead of the 2015 session, members of the House are considering adding landlords to that same list.

Studies show former offenders with stable housing are less likely to commit another crime, which is one of the reasons the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence is discussing whether to provide legal protection by allowing landlords liability relief when they rent to ex-offenders.

"Unfortunately under the current law owners may be sued if a crime occurs if it was committed by an ex-offender living at the property," said Beth Van Winkle, the president-elect of the Texas Apartment Association. "Limiting this exposure could result in more lenient screening criteria and improve the chances of finding rental housing for ex-offenders who are not believed to poise a serious threat.”

The TAA has already drafted a bill and is looking for sponsors to carry the legislation. But Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s Sarah Paul said she is concerned that providing landlords this relief won't prevent housing discrimination.

“Any language that would insulate landlords who deny housing to those with arrests, criminal convictions or deferred adjudication merely as a guise for denying housing based on race or another protected status should be strongly opposed," Paul said.

Paul suggested the Legislature provide landlords tax credits to provide this type of public housing.