Following a recent and inconclusive complaint about a strong drug smell on the premises, a Corpus Christi, Texas condominium complex has just enacted a policy to prevent criminals from moving into the units on their property.
A week ago, a call was made to the local police department complaining of a strong and unspecified “drug smell” coming from one of the neighboring units. When police and firefighters arrived, they couldn’t find anything and eventually left without further incident or investigation. Even so, the very next day the homeowners association voted to enact a policy that would ban anyone with a criminal record from renting the units in their complex. In addition to banning future renters, the association also voted to remove any current tenants who have criminal records. Already, they say, several tenants have been asked to leave their homes. The association has assessed these tenants by conducting criminal background checks on all current owners.
Currently, the issues of most concern to other tenants in the building are sex offenses and drug convictions, though it’s been stated that they don’t want anyone with a criminal record in the complex period. One owner commented that it was unfortunate that the evictions had to occur, but that the vote was part of a larger effort to clean up the area. Other components have included working with the local police department to help increase the number and frequency of patrols in the area in an attempt to crack down on prostitution and drug crime.
The actions of the condominium complex have now become part of a larger debate on the rights of criminals after they’re released from prison or have served out their court-appointed punishments. The stigma attached to being a convicted felon already carries ongoing penalties beyond the loss of voting privileges – it can become nearly impossible for an ex-convict to get a job, let alone skilled work that would take advantage of any relevant degrees or qualifications that are held. On the other hand, many people feel that the discrimination is deserved, as someone who has shown they will break the rules of society can be difficult to trust in future interactions. Criminals who do reform, however, also have to suffer from such generalizations.
All in all, however, the homeowners association’s actions are entirely legal as, under the Fair Housing Act, convicted felons are not a protected class and therefor any discrimination against them by landlords or realtors isn’t seen as such; instead, this behavior is simply deemed the allowed discretion of the landlord or party in power – refusal of service in these cases is extremely common. Moving forward, the North Beach condo community will seemingly enjoy a cleaner image, though it is unclear where those with criminal records, who are now being evicted, will end up. For many tenants, the issue is “out of sight, out of mind,” but if these individuals are slated to re-offend or cause trouble, it won’t be in this particular complex. While some local news coverage has picked up the story, there doesn’t seem to be much public reaction on the matter.