Question: I started drinking alcohol and using drugs when I was in high school, and I kept it up until recently. I didn't think I had a problem because I have maintained good grades in school and held a steady job. Last year, I was stopped by the police for driving under the influence. When the police searched my car, they found a pipe and a backpack with crack cocaine.
I pleaded guilty to felony drug possession. As part of my sentence, I completed a government-mandated drug rehabilitation program, and I have been clean since then. The expenses from the case mean I need to find a cheaper apartment. However, most of the property managers for communities where I apply tell me they can't rent to me because their policies prohibit them from renting to applicants with felony convictions. Is there anything I can do?
Answer: The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of disability. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of person's "major life activities." This definition covers people recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction.
Individuals like you who have successfully completed a drug treatment program are protected under the disability provisions of the Fair Housing Act. This means that a landlord cannot refuse to rent to you solely because of a history of drug addiction, since you are in recovery. Your history of abusing drugs in the past may not be an accurate measure of your current ability to be a good tenant.