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philip.simmons, Lawyer
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 34754
Experience:  10 years experience in the law
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Does WA state law prohibit public housing agents from

Customer Question

Does WA state law prohibit public housing agents from renting to convicted felons? Specifically, a woman who has served her time and has been clean and sober for 18+ months has been provided with a TANF/Section 8 coupon for housing. The local public housing agency has an opening for which she qualifies (over 50+ disability) but will not allow her to use her TANF voucher for housing in this public housing facility in Jefferson Co WA.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Her TANF voucher must be applied before Dec 15 or she loses it. If TANF approved her, shouldn't the public housing be required to accept her? BTW: I am a volunteer housing advocate and this individual is 50 YO, unemployed and has a disabled son of whom she has custody. Your rates are a little high for us. Any adjustment possible?
Expert:  Legal-Kal replied 1 year ago.


Unfortunately, I am not well versed in public housing laws. As such, I will defer to another expert in order to provide you with the information you are requesting. I wish you the best.

Expert:  philip.simmons replied 1 year ago.

My name is***** have over 16 years experience in the law. Should you like to chat on the phone I am happy to for a nominal cost. Let me know at any time during our question and answer session if you are interested I am happy to give you more details.

WA law does NOT prohibit a convicted felon from renting public housing.

On the other hand, WA law does allow a landlord to consider the criminal record of an applicant. So a landlord can discriminate based on the criminal record of an applicant.

SO the case you are describing, there is no law prohibiting the landlord from accepting your clients application. But at the same time, there is also no law that prevents the landlord from refusing to rent, based on her felony conviction.

This is the part of my job I don't like...when the law is not in favor of my customer. I wish I could tell you that WA law prohibited discrimination based on felony conviction, but I can only provide you information based on the law so that you can act on the best available information to you...I wish I had better news, but can only hope you recognize and understand my predicament and don't shoot the messenger. I'm sorry!

Please let me know if you have more questions. I am happy to help if I can. Otherwise, please rate the answer so I may get credit for my work.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Can public housing (state and fed) refuse to rent to an ex-felon when she has been approved for a TANF rental voucher? This is not a private landlord.
Expert:  philip.simmons replied 1 year ago.

They can...WA state prohibits discrimination in housing based on the following criteria


National Origin



Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity

Veteran/Military Status

The presence of any sensory, mental, or physical actual Disability or perceived Disability

Use of a Service Animal

HIV or Hepatitis C

Marital Status (except in public accommodation)

Breastfeeding (in public accommodation)

Age (40+, employment only)

Families with Children (housing only)

State Employee Whistleblower

If the landlord were to refuse to rent based on ANY of the above? That would be a basis to report for illegal discrimination

But as you can see, criminal record is not listed the landlord is free to discriminate based on that alone. There is no law prohibiting them from discriminating based on criminal record

Please let me know if you have more questions. I am happy to help if I can. Otherwise, please rate the answer so I may get credit for my work.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Just once more: If a state agency (DSHS) provides an ex-felon with a state/federal housing voucher and sends her to a state/fed funded public housing agency, that public agency can refuse her even if she qualifies in all other regards? It appears to me that the public housing agency has no risk and no grounds for refusal because the state has already guaranteed both the rent payments and the physical inspection or repair of the property for the tenant in a publicly funded building paid for with with state and federal funds to provide housing for people with these vouchers?
Expert:  philip.simmons replied 1 year ago.

That is true that the state is making a guarantee. And most landlords are happy to rent to folks in Section 8 for this reason (they know they will get paid the rent)

But there is no requirement that the landlord accept any particular applicant. Period. The landlord can not illegally discriminate (so can not discriminate based on any of the factors I listed previously). But the landlord can refuse to rent to an applicant based on their prior criminal record.

Again, I am sorry to be the one to bear bad news.

Please let me know if you have more questions. I am happy to help if I can. Otherwise, please rate the answer so I may get credit for my work.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I understand what you are saying, but because these are both PUBLICLY funded government agencies, and state law does not require them to exclude ex-felons, (as it does for somethings such as voter registration) doesn't the public housing agency have to accept the applicant sent to them with a voucher from another public/government agency for housing services? The public housing units were built to house people with subsidized housing needs. All of their clients have government vouchers for housing costs. They are required by law/contract with funding source to provide this housing for people with the vouchers. I think you may be mistaken about the requirements for public agencies vs private landlords. Esp when both the voucher provider and the housing agency are HUD fed/state programs. The tenants are screened to qualify for the rental vouchers. The agencies have contracts to provide public housing for people with these same vouchers. I will check with a local attorney on Monday and share your comments. If he agrees, I will be satisfied. Right now, I'm not.
Expert:  philip.simmons replied 1 year ago.

Feel free to check my comments. I stand by them.

I would appreciate you returning and accepting/rating my answer after you have "checked" the answer, as that is the only way I receive credit for my work

I wish you the best


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Will do. Thanks. Barbara
Expert:  philip.simmons replied 1 year ago.