NOT FOR RENT! – Director’s Comments
During the summer of 2015 my wife and I were looking for a small house to rent in Northern Utah. I knew what was I was facing: rejection, judgement, red tape and lot’s of calls to landlords that would eventually lead to dead ends. Telling a stranger that you have a sex offense on your record is not a fun thing to do and can be extremely taxing on your emotions. Proving yourself every time you call is exhausting. There were nights where pounding headaches from stress kept me up late; my wife had to listen to me complain about how the landlords in Utah (and elsewhere) are so judgmental, quick to judge, and automatically assume that I was a dangerous man lurking in the bushes like mainstream media often portrays. All this was happening due to my stupid choices back in 2006, but now my family was affected. This was a painful reality.
The documentary film, NOT FOR RENT! came about from one of those stressful phone calls to a landlord; she was renting a small house in Ogden, Utah. She told me that even if she wanted to rent the house to me she wouldn’t be able to due her being a member of the Good Landlord Program (GLP). I had no idea what she was talking about. She went on and explained that because I was still on federal supervision, I wouldn’t qualify for any rental property belonging to the to GLP that contained the felon exclusion clause. At this point, I wanted to scream and throw my cell phone across the room…but I didn’t. I just hung up laying my head down on my desk.
I know I’m not alone. There are millions of ex-felons in this country along with their families fighting for fair and adequate rental housing. Ordinances like the Good Landlord Program aren’t the sole cause of housing rejection for ex-felons, but it adds to what I consider, unfair policies many landlords and property management companies hide behind. I wanted to produce a film that spoke to this issue that is rarely talked about in a country that is supposedly the most ‘free” in the world. I beg to differ as history shows us.
Though we eventually found a place during that summer of 2015, it took months, hundreds of calls, emails (and headaches) to secure a place to live. Countless rejections came from apartment complexes, property management companies, private owners and even landlords that used 100-year criminal history background checks as part of their application process. We were thankful that an understanding landlord finally gave us the rare opportunity to rent his house in Bountiful, Utah.
The house hunt of 2015 wasn’t the only time that I was faced with finding a place to live. As I write these comments, I’m currently seeking a new place to live, and proving myself is wearing me down yet again. Perhaps renting a hotel will be a better option? Or how about I pack my things and live in the woods where there’s no restrictions? I say these things because I know there’s many people that feel the same way I do, including the people that I interviewed for the film. Their stories are powerful, raw and desperate. They seek housing for their families but because of their past, they are denied even a rental application because of a fear-based, media induced society that advertises ALL ex-felons are dangerous people and shouldn’t be trusted as a renter.
I urge you to watch this film. It’s a film that educates and inspires. It will open your eyes to a hidden form of rejection faced by millions of people in this country. Thank you for reading and enjoy NOT FOR RENT!
– Matt Duhamel, Director/Producer