criminal background

13 Replies

I asked the same question in the renters forum. I am hoping to get landlords' perspective on this issue. my spouse has a felony where adjudication of guilt was withheld. theft in the workplace for a small amount but large enough to reach the felony threshold. It was so stupid; we fell out about it and then reconciled. This happened 2 years ago. Having owned a home for 9 years before hand, I had no idea how much this would be an issue until we relocated to a new city and had to find an apartment. Right now only my name is on the lease, but we are in a big complex. Rent paid on the first every month for the past 10 months but I want to move because this place was a quick move for a new job and we need something better.

What can I do to show that there we are good tenants? The word "felon" strikes fear in every property management company I deal with. I want to do things the right way and put both our names on the application but his background seems to be a huge barrier. As long as rent is paid on time and there are no hassles, do rental property owners really care about this? 

Some do and some don't. I would suggest she learn how to talk about her legal history. If she were applying to rent from us, we would look for open and honest communication. She would need to demonstrate she has made full restitution for her crime. The adjudication documentation would be key. She would also need to demonstrate a clean rental history, credit history, and legal history... the longer the better. Depending upon what we perceive as our risk, we may require an additional security deposit.

You say you have been in your current residence for 10 months and you "want" to move because you "need" something better. Well, that would be a concern for us. Most landlords are looking for responsible long term tenants. You haven't even been in your current residence for a year; what other kind of rental history do you and she have? You would do better to stay put and build a longer positive rental history. Two years would not be bad, but five years or longer would be great.

Updated almost 3 years ago

I didn't read the post correctly the first time... the spouse with the felony is male, not female. Please excuse my use of "she/her" instead of "he/him".

I'm confused. I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that if she has deferred adjudication, then she doesn't actually have a felony on her record - she has an arrest, but no conviction. The two background screening services I've used only show convictions, not arrests, because of the presumption of innocence until an actual conviction.

Have you actually seen a background check where this has showed up?

Originally posted by @Michael Hayworth :

I'm confused. I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that if she has deferred adjudication, then she doesn't actually have a felony on her record - she has an arrest, but no conviction. The two background screening services I've used only show convictions, not arrests, because of the presumption of innocence until an actual conviction.

Have you actually seen a background check where this has showed up?

I am not going to address the presumption of innocence here, every owner/manager/agent has different standards

Legally speaking you can show arrests without convictions for up to 7 years back in most states under the FCRA. Notably California is one where you can't do this.

In the industry you will find reporting these things varies widely from company to company. In fact at the most recent conference the results were all over the place in a survey they did.

Speaking for us, We generally show going back 7 years , and then only if the charge has not been dismissed [i.e. charge is still pending or ended in conviction]. If there are larger owners/managers with specific different requirements that are within the law we will try and accommodate.

@Alexis W.

Also, this is not legal advice, go find a competent FL Lawyer and get the record sealed/expunged.

Witholding adjudication is a Florida specific thing and seems to mean you were never formally convicted, so it may not show up on a record beyond the arrest. How you decide to approach it with the specific property owner is up to you, but from reading quickly online you may legally able to say you were never convicted of a crime.

Regardless it's worth it to get the record sealed/expunged, if not for renting then also for future employment checks and the like

@Alexis I.Are you positive the felony is showing up on background checks?  Does your spouse have any other criminal issues?  How is their credit?  Have they ever been evicted?

The point I am getting at is you want to verify exactly what is showing up on the background check so you can hit the nail on the head and be proactive about the issues BEFORE the landlord or PM runs the background.

Can you give 2 months security?  That may be something to offer up if indeed the felony is showing up on the background.

Michael Noto, Real Estate Agent in CT (#RES.0799665)
860-384-7570

Also, to build a positive rental history, pay rent on time, take care of the place, follow the terms of your rental agreement, and don't create unnecessary drama. Does your current landlord know your spouse has been living with you? What would it take to have his name added to the rental agreement? If he has already established residency, he is their tenant by default. Make it official by adding his name as jointly and severally liable so he can build up his rental history too. Be aware, if you moved him in and didn't notify the landlord, it could be seen an unauthorized occupancy, which may not go over well with the landlord. Re-read your rental agreement, make an appointment with the property manager and come clean with your current landlord as a first step.

Hmm, I'm not sure what is showing up but the first place we applied we when needed to move found the item in the background check. We selected "no" because the application specifically mentioned violent and drug-related crimes, but apparently we answered incorrectly. The adjudication is not a conviction so he can answer no to that, but most apps ask about adjudication also. We've talked with an attorney about getting the record sealed but at this point my understanding is that he would not be eligible. Regarding the other points, we have no evictions. Credit is low (around 620-640 depending on what report you pull) but for most places I've been told this is acceptable. There's nothing to be paid off, it will take time for the scores to increase at this point. This is the only thing affecting our applications.

As far as staying long term, as I mentioned I was a homeowner for 9 years before this. I moved to a new city quickly because I got a better job and actually moved in to the place I'm at sight-unseen. We need a bigger space because we plan to have another child and we have a home based business. This is important because we don't want to move again for the next 4-5 years.

We can pay extra security or more rent upfront, but we haven't even gotten that far. The management companies I've spoken with say the felony won't pass their criteria and that's it. I just wondered if there was something specific I could do to get my foot in the door.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

Also, to build a positive rental history, pay rent on time, take care of the place, follow the terms of your rental agreement, and don't create unnecessary drama. Does your current landlord know your spouse has been living with you? What would it take to have his name added to the rental agreement? If he has already established residency, he is their tenant by default. Make it official by adding his name as jointly and severally liable so he can build up his rental history too. Be aware, if you moved him in and didn't notify the landlord, it could be seen an unauthorized occupancy, which may not go over well with the landlord. Re-read your rental agreement, make an appointment with the property manager and come clean with your current landlord as a first step.

I've read my agreement many times, lol. I'm not sure coming clean would be beneficial at this point. Only two months left on the lease. We've "laid low" so to speak. It's a large complex so there's not a lot of interaction with the office.

@Alexis W.

So this is interesting - how does it show up on the background check? Are you receiving Adverse Action notices?

Your best bet is usually with an individual landlord or less desirable property. Smaller landlords can be more flexible on their criteria [or don't screen at all], whereas usually the owner of the management company will lock the employees in to a specific decision tree to avoid FHA suits.

Originally posted by @Ariel O. :

@Alexis I.

So this is interesting - how does it show up on the background check? Are you receiving Adverse Action notices?

Your best bet is usually with an individual landlord or less desirable property. Smaller landlords can be more flexible on their criteria [or don't screen at all], whereas usually the owner of the management company will lock the employees in to a specific decision tree to avoid FHA suits.

Hmm, ok, that makes sense. The response I've gotten is that they are restricted by fair housing and have to treat people the same (or something like that).

I just searched for "adverse action notices" and no we are not receiving them. I'm coming forward before I apply with this information and being told "don't bother" (effectively). 

@Alexis W.

Got it - no adverse action notice if they don't actually screen. Decent enough on their part to save you the time and money. Anybody who rents at scale will generally have set criteria and will not deviate because of FHA..

Originally posted by @Ariel O. :

@Alexis W.

So this is interesting - how does it show up on the background check? Are you receiving Adverse Action notices?

Your best bet is usually with an individual landlord or less desirable property. Smaller landlords can be more flexible on their criteria [or don't screen at all], whereas usually the owner of the management company will lock the employees in to a specific decision tree to avoid FHA suits.

I agree with @Ariel O.

@Alexis and spouse, if you do receive an Adverse Action notice and were denied in part because of credit issues, you can contact the credit bureau that did the check and get a copy of the report. 

Also, go to the courthouse and request a copy of what they have on record regarding legal history, so you can effectively address that when you speak with potential landlords/property management companies. Learn to speak of the felony as legal history instead of criminal history. It will do well for your psyche and it will also sound less harsh to others. Print out an explanation of the infraction, the circumstances, and what steps were taken to resolve the matter in case someone asks about it.

A few thoughts as I pondered this issue that may be helpful.

First, I would get a copy of the criminal report so that you know what prospective landlords are seeing.  Google background check for your state and you'll find a website.  As long as you are willing to pay the nominal fee you do not need to be a landlord to run these.

Second, you may want to seek out private landlord rather than those using property managers, because they may be willing to look at it on a case by case basis rather than deny without looking at the circumstances.  From a landlord perspective, renting to someone with theft issues could put me at higher risk of the appliances or other items disappearing; are you in a position to proactively offer a higher deposit to help mitigate that risk?

Third, how often have you moved in the last five years?  You may want to stick it out in your current address another year.  Personally I would rather rent to someone with a criminal record than to someone who is more likely to move out after a year.  Turnover is very expensive.

Just to give you an idea, I use a point system to evaluate applications.  Applicants lose a few points for having criminal activity in the past 4 years, lose more points for having more than two incidents of criminal activity or activity in the past 3 years, lose a lot of points for not disclosing the issue before I find it, are disqualified for serious offenses, and gain points for having a clean background check.  I rent in low income areas.  If I had nicer units with a bigger applicant pool, I could see how it would be easier to have a blanket policy of no criminal activity.

I love that renters come here for advice and the landlord perspective, I hope your research pays off.

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