Do you disqualify a tenant with a criminal background?

18 Replies

I am screening a tenant but there are various red flags on the mysmartmove report. First is about a 20k credit card debt but also a 5 year probation for theft $20k. Do you or have you ever accepted a tenant with a previous criminal history or do you automatically move on the the next application?

What is a nice way to inform this tenant of my reason for rejecting her.

Sorry but you did not pass our background check.

I think a lot depends on the area in which you invest and your target demographic. An easy copout is to say that you have accepted a more qualified canidate but make sure you have another accepted canidate. Never smart to lie. Otherwise just be honest.

Some people tend to surprise. They might not pay their credit cards but have never been late on a rent or utility bill. In my demographic, I tend to try to give folks a second chance and treat them with respect which usually brings about a great willingness to show that apprec

yes for sure.

In fact criminal and evictions are really the big ones to check for with an agency. If those show up the answer is no.

I really dont check for credit. Many tenants are renters because they dont have good credit but they still prioritize their rent.

You need to establish your own rules, and I am very upfront what my rules are.

I won't accept anyone with any violent felonies, or any felonies within the past 10 years. Any evictions are an automatic 'no', but I will consider someone with a foreclosure/short sale.

Establish your rules, and go by them, that way you won't be accused of discrimination,

I agree with Andy. Be definitive. I used to be a little looser, but but got burned by a tenant with a criminal background, so now my leasing standards have tightened.

One thing is someone on probation is motivated to not have any more problems but it doesn't mean they will pay their rent.

This is an easy no. I never rent to anyone who can't pass a background check. I never tell applicants no but instead state "I am still taking applications and will take the best potential applicant when we decide."

We look at how long ago and how likely the crime is to hurt our units or the neighborhood. I care more about evictions, rental history, and income.

We also rarely tell an applicant no, unless they are bugging us like crazy, and we don't give details on why. "We have a standard screening process and you don't meet our qualifications." We usually keep everyone in a holding pattern until we offer the unit, and we can normally tell them that an earlier applicant qualified.

Thank you guys. I ended up telling her that she did not meet our qualifications. I had taken a $250 refundable deposit to hold the house in case she did meet the qualifications but that check ended up as NSF, plus I got a fee from my bank. How did she expect to pay for rent and security deposit! Today I received a call from her friend asking why I did not refund her deposit. I told her that the funds were never even taken out as they came out NSF and to refer to her bank statement to confirm. The house sits in a well located neighborhood in North Fort Worth and I hope to have a good qualified tenant shortly. Seems like the 3 people that I have shown the house to either just recently started working or have pit bulls which is a no no. I understand you have to be picky in order to survive and have longevity in this business so I plan on standing my ground.

@David A. Sorry to hear about the bounced security deposit check, but it sounds like you are doing your homework and will find the right tenant in due time.

I won't deal with someone with violent offenses or things you have to register with the state for but I have dealt successfully with others that have misdemeanors etc.  One tenant was even on probation for something and I actually leveraged that successfully.  There was a minor issue between him and some neighbors.  When I approached him about it he became a little aggressive towards me.  I simply asked him how his probation was going and instantly problem solved.  There was not a peep out of him and he moved out at the end of his lease two years later with the house in great shape.  Like anything else, you need to have your tolerances and ones.  There are lots of bad people out there but there is no such thing as a person that does not make a mistake.  The only question is how big was the mistake(s) and how are they doing in atoning for them.  Don't forget, a clean background check may mean they haven't done anything wrong....but it more likely means they just didn't get caught!  

It depends on the crime. Someone with a violent history, or a clear pattern of having issues with the law is an absolute no go. Someone with a history of debt and missing payments is the same deal.

If I see someone with one minor offense, or something that happened a long time ago to an otherwise seemingly upstanding person I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and dig a little deeper. If they seem like a risk I'll pass on them, but I've given chances to people if they seem like a decent person who made a mistake. At the end of the day I'm just trying to avoid creating problems for myself.

As others have mentioned, you have to establish criteria for acceptance and rejection ahead of time and put that into writing; in your criteria, you can say what sorts of offenses are worthy of forgiveness (such as misdemeanors more than 5 years ago) and those unforgivable (sex offense).  Rejection template can be found in this next link:

Originally posted by @Greg B.:

I could be wrong, but, I thought you had to clearly list the possible reasons for applicant rejection on the application in Texas.

After looking at TX Landlord and Tenant law, I'd say you are correct. The OP is in TX... so very applicable. In part this section of code says:

(a) At the time an applicant is provided with a rental application, the landlord shall make available to the applicant printed notice of the landlord's tenant selection criteria and the grounds for which the rental application may be denied, including the applicant's:

(1) criminal history;

(2) previous rental history;

(3) current income;

(4) credit history; or

(5) failure to provide accurate or complete information on the application form.

Upshot: Know your state's Landlord and Tenant laws!


@David A.  Never accept a personal check for deposits or first months rent. Certified bank check, cash or money order only.

Some states are now making it illegal for employers to deny employment based on criminal background IF the crimes committed weren't directly related to the type business you run. So, for example: urinating in public charge might not have any bearing on whether or not someone can work as a cashier in a store. However, a drunk driving charge is a completely valid reason not to hire someone as a school bus driver -- KWIM?

While landlords don't have to comply with such rules, it's a good model to look at when setting your own tenant criteria and for determining what type of convictions carry weight when you are deciding to enter into a financial agreement with a person. 

I think stealing is a HUGE red flag and completely legitimate reason for denying tenancy.

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