Renting with a criminal record can make things complicated. Once you have a criminal record it sticks with you and can make many aspects of your life difficult, especially finding a home to rent and a job. Landlords and property management companies use background checks to screen for good and bad tenants; when a criminal record is present it is often used a reason for denial. The type of crime committed, however, can weigh in your favor.
Unfortunately, in many cases the only rental property owners that will agree to rent to a person with a criminal record are those with property in shady neighborhoods with others who have criminal records. It can be very difficult to find a job that pays enough to get you out of a bad rental situation when you live in an area that lacks good jobs.
If you are having a hard time with background checks and your criminal record then you may need to think outside of the box to ameliorate your situation.
4 Tips to Renting with a Criminal Record
1. Ideally you can find a place that does not perform a background check but understand that most apartment complexes are owned by large corporations who perform these checks.
2. Try renting a room or a home owned by a private party. They will get to know you more personally and if you make a good impression, they may opt not to perform a background check.
3. Consider renting space in a rural setting where many landlords have lots of land and are looking to supplement their income through rental property rather than make their entire living from it. In addition, many people who live in a small town are more comfortable doing business with a handshake than with a bunch of paperwork and legality.
4. Take a look at any organizations to which you belong. Leaders from a church or community center whose members have gotten to know you could serve as a great reference on your application letter. There may even be someone in the group willing to rent to you.
If you have a criminal record you may be wondering if it is legal for a landlord or property management company to turn down your application for this reason. The answer is that despite the fact that it is discrimination, it is most likely legal. Only specific types of discrimination are illegal and those generally include race, ethnicity, religion, family status and disability. Some states and cities also disallow discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. A felony conviction is not protected from discrimination by any state except for a federal law that prohibits discrimination against a prospective tenant with a felony conviction for drug use. Any crimes relating to the drug use such as selling or manufacturing drugs are not protected. Although it may seem unfair to deny a person housing because of a very old conviction, it is not technically illegal.
Your best recourse is to anticipate that the conviction will turn up in a background check and address it up front. Talk about the conviction when applying for the rental and tell them that you have moved past those days and are committed to being a good tenant and law-abiding citizen. You have a good chance of acceptance if the conviction is very old and you have had a clean record since the incident.
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