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The Costs of Seeking Shelter for Renters with Discrediting Background Records

May 2021

From City & Community:

This study illuminates an understudied pathway through which disadvantage is reproduced in the rental housing market: the housing search, application, and tenant screening process. Using in-depth interviews with 25 housing-seekers with criminal conviction records, past evictions, and damaged credit histories, this article examines the direct role of the rental housing search and application process in reproducing economic precarity and social disadvantage among renters with discrediting background records, beyond delimiting their housing options. Its findings suggest that navigating the housing search from a position of acute market disadvantage comes with significant costs for this population, including the financial burden of repeated application fees and the psychological strains associated with the specter of indefinite housing insecurity. The findings also demonstrate how the housing search process may undermine the willingness of stigmatized renters to contest exploitative or unlawful rental practices by reinforcing awareness of their degraded status in the rental market.