Domestic Violence in Background Check

7 Replies

Hello Everyone,

  I have a house up for rent right now and some prospective tenants are interested in renting the house, but the husband and the wife both have domestic violence charges on their records.  They have been up front about their records.  I know that we need to treat all applicants equally, but what are your requirements for this type of issue?  Do you turn down all applicants with any type of criminal records?

Thanks for your thoughts,


We normally accept DV offenses, but we operate in low income properties.  The risk to you is that they damage the property if they get physical or that they disturb the peace if they flight loudly.  This is telling you that they are both volatile personality types and tend to let things escalate rather than being calm and rational, which could come across in their dealings with you.

If you are in a higher end market or have other less drama prone choices in tenants I would pass.  If you decide to proceed, I would ask for a bigger deposit to mitigate your risk, make your rules and expectations clear, and I would contact the police station to see if you can get notification of any police calls to the property.  Our city has this option if landlords opt in.

As far as fair housing goes, whether criminals are a protected class seems to fall into the "it depends" realm.  But unless you have local rules, you should be able to set your standards and as long as you apply them consistently, not have issues.   As you sort out what you want your standards to be, make sure you are consistent through filling this vacancy, making any adjustments with the next vacancy.  If you are collecting a screening fee you may have to have published criteria available so applicants aren't wasting their money knowing they will be denied.

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Thanks for your replies @Michael Noto  @Michele Fischer  and @Joe Gore 

Michael, yes the domestic issues were with each other.

Michele, placing my screening criteria on my listing is a great idea.  I hadn't thought to do that before, but it will make for less wasted calls, showings, and background checks.

Joe, our law in Michigan is a maximum of 1.5 months rent for deposit. 

I have decided not to rent to this couple, since they have a felony and misdemeanor for domestic violence between them.  I will for sure turn down felonies, but I need to decide on misdemeanors.  As long as I can keep finding good tenants, I will just stick with no past criminal records as my criteria.

Good decision @Brad T.  , unless you are in the city of Detroit, you can still discriminate based on criminal record. We actually do a "Pre-Screening", which saves us time and the tenant doesn't waste their money on the application fee if they aren't going to qualify. 

Two of the main red flags that we look for are past evictions (check District Court Filings) and Criminal Record. @Michael Noto  -- Good point on being able to afford rent if another individually if an issue arises.

Good Luck!


Trust me as a landlord you will see enough issues with great tenants. Unless they are you only market I would never invite issues by lowering your prescreen. In my experience the times I made exceptions were the only time I hated being a landlord! There is a reason why you have standards and screening rules.