Improving Housing Opportunities for Individuals with Conviction Records

Package Three: Use of Certificates of Rehabilitation

















Some states have passed legislation that creates certificates of rehabilitation for people with conviction records. These certificates provide a way for states to indicate that, in certain circumstances and with certain evidence, the state considers the person with the conviction record to be rehabilitated. See the Legal Action Center’s Toolkit Certificates of Relief From Disabilities for more detailed information about certificates. [Michelle, please link to that toolkit.] Generally, the state requires that persons with conviction records show that they have not sustained any further convictions in a certain period of time, have participated in classes or counseling, or show other evidence of rehabilitation. While state-issued certificates are mostly used by job-seekers, unless otherwise specified, they can also be used to show landlords that a person with a conviction record is considered by the state to be rehabilitated. This portion of the kit provides materials that can be used to advocate for the passage of laws and use of certificates in the housing context, including:


Certificates of rehabilitation can be used to provide evidence to landlords that the state believes that the certificate holder has been rehabilitated, and that the person is a suitable tenant. In states where these certificates are available, they have proven to be a very effective tool to help people with conviction records obtain housing and employment. States that do not have certificates of rehabilitation for employment or housing or any other context may wish to consider their use. In the preceding Packages One and Two, which include a model housing policy and model housing legislation, the Legal Action Center has advocated that PHAs and private landlords consider certificates in making housing decisions.

Under current state laws, an applicant for a certificate must show evidence of rehabilitation since the time of the completion of his or her sentence. The state then evaluates whether the person qualifies for a certificate of rehabilitation and issues one if they do. In most states, people seeking certificates must submit an application. The state will take a number of factors into consideration when determining whether an individual qualifies for the presumption created by the certificate. These may include:

    1. The length of time that has passed since the conviction(s);

    2. The nature of the conviction and number of convictions;

    3. Whether the applicant has paid all financial sanctions levied for the offense;

    4. Whether the applicant has been convicted of, or been under indictment for, a criminal offense, other than a minor misdemeanor traffic offense;

    5. Whether the application’s drivers license is still valid;

    6. Whether the applicant has maintained financial responsibility for any motor vehicles as required by law;

    7. Whether the applicant has met any child and spousal support obligations, as required by law;

    8. Whether the applicant has paid all State, Federal, and local income taxes and has timely filed all associated income tax returns as required by law;

    9. Whether the applicant has maintained a residence for a substantial period;

    10. Whether the applicant has maintained gainful employment, or demonstrated other acceptable means of support such as pensions, disability payments, spousal or child support, scholarships or grants, or, if the applicant was not in the labor force at any time during the relevant period, whether the applicant’s employment was necessary to meet the financial needs of the applicant and his or her dependants;

    11. Evidence that the applicant has adequately addressed any drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, if previously assessed or ordered into treatment by a judicial or correctional authority;

    12. Letters of reference; and

    13. Documentation of the applicant’s service to the community or specific individuals in need.



Only six states have established state-issued certificates of rehabilitation or other similar means of removing bars: Arizona, California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York. These states differ in their levels of protection, eligibility criteria, and procedures. Click here for descriptions and texts of each of the six state laws.



States should enact legislation that enables individuals with conviction histories who have demonstrated their rehabilitation and ability to reenter society to obtain certificates that remove automatic barriers and create a presumption of rehabilitation when they seek employment, licensing, benefits, housing and other necessities and privileges. The Legal Action Center’s National H.I.R.E. Network drafted Model Legislation that states can use to create certificates of rehabilitation for qualified people with conviction histories who have paid their debt to society, and developed a list of the Key Provisions we think state legislation creating certificates should include, all of which are incorporated in our model law.



If your state is considering legislation to create certificates of rehabilitation or other means to restore the rights of people with criminal records who have paid their debt society, alerting supportive groups and individuals and asking them to contact their legislators to support the legislation is an effective way to bring about change. Click here for a model Action Alert you can shape for your specific needs and use to seek grassroots support.



Click here for a model Sample Letter you can send along with the Action Alert to help your grassroots supporters write to their elected officials urging them to support legislation that creates certificates of rehabilitation to restore the rights of people with criminal records who have paid their debt society. Once again you can shape this Sample Letter to meet your specific needs.


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