My First Rental.... should i rent to felons

46 Replies

Hi,  I am renting out my first house and trying to get someone in there in the next few weeks.  I have a couple that are really interested, but the male has a felony (schedule II PITS) female has shopped lifted in past (distant).  He sent me pay stubs and doing quit well.  Should i rent to them, and if I do should I do a 3 month lease initially?

I haven't had any felon applicants yet, but rented to someone who got busted for smoking weed in TX years back.

It's pretty much legal in CA, so not much of a concern to me. There are bigger problems and things to look for out there.

Some will say that with their background, they may be dishonest and/or have bad character since they've both been involved.

Is this common for the tenant pool in your area/neighborhood. I know some landlords that HAVE to accept tenants with evictions, or they'll never fill the place. That has a lot to do with where you selected to buy though..

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POT basically, and it was three months ago....     I was thinking of giving them a chance... by applicant pool is not the GREATEST around here, rents on 510.... this is not ATL or CA or NYC....  

@Antonio McGuire  What is PITS? Is that "Possession with Intent To Sell"? If so, what was the controlled substance? How long ago was the crime? Has he made complete restitution, served all time, paid all fines? How serious is a schedule II crime in your state? Every state has their own way of coding crimes, so it's not quite clear as to what crime was committed.

To answer your question.... We may accept a tenant with a felony if they meet certain criteria. Take a look at our "Rental Criteria" and "Tenant Screening Questions", both of which are in the BP File Place.  Go to Resources, then File Place, then Other Documents, and you can download them. Read about what we look for regarding "Legal History."

You need to be careful and diligent in your tenant screening. Otherwise you could end up will a real problem tenant.

@Antonio McGuire  You posted at the same time I was posting.  What do you mean when you say "basically"? Was it a marijuana grow? Also, this was only three months ago! Can almost guarantee you there is a lot more going on and the time frame is too close. Pass on this one.

I have had poor results renting to x felons. Every situation is different, but I'd be disinclined to do it again given the trouble I've had.  I'd take a better applicant even if I had to drop rent to get them. 

@Jon Klaus   is right on this one. Why would you rent to a felon if you don't have to? And the truth is that you really don't have to. There are tenants out there with clean records. Ever hear what a grow op does to a house? Mold issues, fire risk, undesirables. Move on to the next applicant even if you have to swallow some vacancy.

@Antonio McGuire   Don't rent to this guy. " was three months ago..."  You are asking for disappointment. EDIT: If I read it correctly, both adults have a criminal history. DON'T RENT TO THEM. They were CONVICTED of Possession with Intent to Sell. Stick their names in here: and see what else you can find. You are asking for trouble renting to them.

Do you know for sure if it was a grow house, possession with intent to sell could have been a charge trumped by a over zealous cop, such as in the potential tenant having it in multiple small baggies, possibly having a gram scale, etc.  both of which can be explained away, the scale, as applicant may of wanted to weigh pot to ensure amount, and having multiple baggies, they may have "forgot" where their stash was, and bought another.  A lot of poor people may buy 1 nic bag at a time, if a cop searched their car, and found multiple bags with small amounts in each or even full, that may have resulted in the intent to sell charge.  I would not have a problem renting to a felon, as long other criteria works out, such as them being respectful, having references, making the right amount etc.  I think that if everyone got in trouble for everything they have done, most likely everyone would be felons. For instance in Florida a 12 yr old was arrested and jailed for throwing a pecan at a bus.  A Pecan!  He was being charged with a third degree felony of throwing a deadly missile.Also in Florida it is a misdemeanor to drive within 500 ft behind a ambulance.  So if you are driving 499 ft behind a ambulance in traffic, you could be charged with a misdemeanor. As you can see, it can be pretty easy to get a criminal record.  I would want to look beyond applicant having a felony

@Kendall T.  

with all due respect, I completely disagree with your post. PWITS is a serious charge. Have you listened in on any court cases with such charges? I have. The defendants are not some guy selling a joint at the state fair or college student sharing a joint at a party.

If you are hinting at leasing to this guy, at least pull the file and read through the testimony.

it appears like you are clumping all people who have that charge as though they're all doing similar crimes, I completely disagree with your post as some people may have gotten busted for dealing hundreds of pounds and some people may have gotten busted for a couple joints.  And I don't think you can fairly judge this potential applicant based on some court case you've heard in the past, his  charge should be looked at separately , based on what he/she has a individual did himself/ herself

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It really depends on your area and neighborhood. I intentionally buy great houses so that I don't have to deal with this type of clients. If you demographic is this type of tenant than you have a great tenant. The key is to see what your area attracts. People have done amazing on this website working in every niche type!

Certain crimes are worse than others I for one could care less about renting to someone Who had done pot in their past, if that was a requirement for president of the United States we wouldn't of had at least two presidents so far, some crimes are very heinous in nature and I would not want to rent to someone, such as being violent to women, multiple breaking enterings, arson etc, crimes that actually hurts others

Elizabeth Colegrove I completely agree, I happen to live in an area that is not the greatest in fact here's a quote from Wikipedia

 In 2000, Fort Pierce was rated the highest in the United States for having the worst crime rate based on city size and population.

In all fairness my area has been getting considerably better the last few yrs.

But in the end no matter if you're in a good area or a bad area if you are a landlord who really loves people and treats them nice they would generally want to treat you that way back

Don't do it.  if you cant find a tenant w/o multiple red flags, you need to change the way you bringing tenants in or find new places to buy properties.

For your first landlording experience? probably not. You want to practice explaining and enforcing your "rules" with people who at least  already have some tendency to follow the "rules"...

I would have no problem renting to someone that's been convicted of a crime for pot. In the grand scheme of things, it's a minor violation. However; if it were for assault, or a crime against a woman or child, I wouldn't rent to them. 

I've dealt with many ex-cons over the years and some turn their lives around, and some re-offend. We've trained many ex-cons over the years on our jobs, had them over to our house etc. You can't lump everyone together. Being an ex con doesn't define ones life. What is the person like, how long has he been employed, etc. Look at the big picture. Sometimes being convicted is a turning point in a persons life. 

@Antonio McGuire  

I always am curious why the discrimination against felons as a class. First of all, they already paid their debt to society and unless they have a big red F tattooed on their forehead, I'm not sure why landlords have an apprehension against them. Second, while I read people's horror stories about renting to felons, I read a lot more stories about bad tenants who just happened to be regular people; does that mean we should stop renting to people? Third, perhaps the recidivism rate is so high because no one will give them a fair shake afterwards. If you can't find a job or a nice place to live, can you blame them for not being able to pull their life together. Fourth, the only reason that this type of discussion comes up is they are not a protected class. I remember a time where the same type of questions were written about blacks, Hispanics and same sex couples. Perhaps landlords also have a duty to be fair to all people. That's not to say you can't fairly choose your tenant by the ability to pay your monthly rent, but during this downturn I have run into a lot of people who fell on bad times by no fault of their own. Everyone deserves a decent and safe place to live. (BTW, I think it is 70% of all murders are caused by people who they know....I don't think that means we need to get rid of all of our friends and family) Lastly, if I read your initial post correctly, the guy is making a decent wage. As long as he is financially qualified and you do not have better candidates; why not make your life easy and just rent to him? You can always increase the security deposit through your own internal scoring method, but make an informed decision on your perspective tenants.

That's my two cents worth.

I would say you should wait for another applicant. My husband had a rental and the wife was a shoplifter who had thousands of dollars worth of stolen merchandise in my husbands house. She and her husband were also addicted to drugs. In addition to the stuff she stole from stores all of the furniture they brought to my husband's house when they rented was actually stolen from their previous landlord. Once the police caught up with them they were arrested and out on bail within hours. But, because there was so much stolen merchandise in my husbands house, the police wouldn't let him proceed with the eviction because all their evidence was in the house. It took my husband another 6 months to get them out and they were mad and that my husband and the previous landlord joined forces with the police so they did $28k in damage before they left. 

Long story longer - Any illegal activity that they bring to your property can effect you in ways that you can't imagine. One red flag, sure but multiple red flags? Consider it a blessing that you have this information in advance!

Antonio it's your property so you can rent to who you want to. Investors ought to not be surprised when they own property in low income and or depressed areas that are non-optimal.

It's mainly the tenant pools that are around there and every once in awhile maybe you find a good one.

If you can have it stay vacant for one or two months to try and land a better tenant that might be best. Even give a deal on first months rent and then screen a ton of applicants to try for the best one. In the scheme of things giving away some rent the first month to get a premium tenant is more worth it in the long run. If your area is known for crime and vandalizing vacant property then the low rent first month and getting the best tenant sounds like it might keep your place from getting trashed.

I am over the low income stuff. I like to sit on the beach without a care in the world. Peace of mind at 15% coc is better than hell for 20% coc.