‘I was 24 years old.’ Renter says he was denied apartment over misdemeanors from 1989

Housing advocates say it’s a prime example of why landlords should be blocked from considering decades-old convictions.

John Craven

Jun 6, 2024, 8:43 PM

Updated 9 days ago

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A New Haven man says he was denied an apartment over misdemeanor convictions – from 35 years ago.
On Thursday, he filed a state human rights complaint, accusing the property management company of racial discrimination.
Housing advocates say it’s a prime example of why landlords should be blocked from considering decades-old convictions.
35-YEAR-OLD CONVICTIONS
In 1989, Bobby Brown topped the charts with “My Prerogative” and “Seinfeld” was just beginning its blockbuster TV run.
It’s also the year Mark Griffin was convicted with misdemeanor assault charges.
“I was 24 years old,” he said. “I’ve turned my life around since then.”
Griffin is now 58. Since then, he’s become a community advocate in New Haven and even served on the co-op board of his apartment building.
Now, he’s engaged.
“We decided that we wanted to move in together,” said Cheryl Rabe, Griffin’s fiance. “And at the same time, we also decided that we wanted to get married.”
But when the couple wanted to move in together, they claim New Haven-based Mandy Management rejected Griffin because of his criminal record.
“When Cheryl and I were trying to explain to them that I turned my life around, they didn’t want to hear anything,” he said.
CHANGE IN THE LAW?
Griffin and Rabe joined housing groups on Thursday, urging state lawmakers to limit when landlords can consider an applicant’s criminal history.
“This is about a person who did something 35 years ago,” said Anderson Curtis, a senior policy organizer with ACLU Connecticut. “Do you know what you did in 1989?”
A bill this year would have blocked property managers from considering convictions more than three years old – unless the applicant just got out of prison, was a lifelong registered sex offender or was convicted of certain serious drug crimes. Charges that did not result in a conviction would also be off limits.
But the legislation died in the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee amid stiff opposition from landlords, who argued that even misdemeanor convictions can point to potential dangers to other tenants.
“Landlords look to mitigate risk,” Bob DeCosmo with the Connecticut Property Owners Alliance told the Legislature’s Housing Committee in February. “And if they perceive risk, they're going to try to compensate for that.”
Griffin’s lawyer said advocates are willing to compromise.
“We’re not wedded to that particular language,” said Amy Eppler-Epstein, an attorney with New Haven Legal Assistance. “The idea is, landlords should not be able to look back indefinitely at all convictions forever.”
DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT
After the press conference, Griffin’s legal team delivered a state Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities complaint to Mandy Management’s office, with television news cameras in tow.
Mandy Management did not respond to questions about its background check policy but did issue this statement:
“At Mandy Management, we are committed to providing equal housing opportunities. While we do not comment on potential or pending litigation, Mandy Management does not discriminate against tenants or potential tenants based on race, color, family status, disability, sex, national origin, religion, marital status, ancestry, source of income, sexual orientation, or age or any other basis prohibited by law. To maximize transparency and fairness in rental decisions, we apply the same screening criteria and procedures to every applicant so we can make informed decisions to protect our rental community and to promote fairness and inclusiveness.”


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