Renting to Illegal Immigrants

22 Replies

I read this article and at the end, the writer said it is better to rent to an illegal immigrant than not to. I have my thoughts but I was wondering what are your thoughts? I'm in the conservative state of Texas but live in a liberal part of Houston, which is one, if not the most diverse city in America.

forgot to link the article: https://www.ezlandlordforms.com/articles/educational/3/45/renting-to-immigrants-the-laws-affecting-landlords-and-undocumented-immigrants/

I've had this discussion with hundreds of property managers around the country. The consensus? It depends on whether you are a leftist or a conservative.

Here's a direct quote from FEDERAL law:

It is a violation of law for any person to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection in any place, including any building or means of transportation, any alien who is in the United States in violation of law. Harboring means any conduct that tends to substantially facilitate an alien to remain in the U.S. illegally.  The sheltering need not be clandestine, and harboring covers aliens arrested outdoors, as well as in a building. This provision includes harboring an alien who entered the U.S. legally, but has since lost his legal status.

If I knew they were in this country illegally, I will not rent to them. First, it's a violation of the law. Second, it's a big risk for my investment because they could decide to leave in the middle of the night and I have no recourse or they could be hauled off by ICE.

Some people claim this is a violation of Fair Housing. I think it's an example of wrong-headed, contradictory regulation. 

How do I protect myself from violating Fair Housing? I apply screening policies that are fair, legal, and reasonable. I require all applicants to submit to a credit/criminal background. This requires a social security number, date of birth, government issued picture ID, etc. If someone is in the country illegally, they won't be able to provide the needed information and they'll move along. If they are here legally, they can provide the necessary documentation to demonstrate that and I can run my background check.

My primary goal in screening is to mitigate risk. "Illegal" does not meet my screening requirements. I always choose the best qualified applicant and illegal simply does not qualify.

Everyone has their own standards, some do not use credit scores, it all boils down to how much risk you are prepared to place on your investment.

Illegals, bad credit, evictions, criminals, S8, what is your standard of risk tolerance.

I'm not sure why a landlord would want to put themselves at risk by breaking the law, regardless of how one feels emotionally on this subject.

@Nathan G.   Lots of illegal immigrants have their own social security number.  Lots of legal residents do not have a social security number.  The three main credit reporting companies all say what you said it completely false about a social security number being required for a credit check.

Lots of illegal immigrants in the US have bank accounts that they opened with those social security numbers.  Of course, many banks do not even require people to have a social security number to open an account.

Another big shocker... the majority of illegal immigrants in Texas live in owner occupied homes.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

Here's a direct quote from FEDERAL law:

That same federal law does not provide a definition of what it means to harbor someone.  Multiple courts have opined on the topic, and have all come to the same conclusion, that it would take more than simply providing a rental home to someone in order to classify as harboring them.  Instead it would take providing shelter with attempt to conceal...think Schindler's List.

Personally I have found that the majority of people whom I have suspected of being illegal have been some of my better tenants, and tend to take very good care of the home.  Your results may vary.

We're really doing this again? OP look at the last post on this, you'll find arguments on both sides.

@Michael Biggs Please explain a LEGAL method for an ILLEGAL immigrant to obtain a social security number. I've looked around and don't see that it's possible. If they are under DACA or a work permit, that makes them LEGAL and doesn't apply. I am talking about ILLEGAL immigrants.

If they come her illegally, they won't have a social and they won't have a government issued picture ID. I can't verify their identity, their resident history, their ability to pay, the criminal record, or anything else. Too much risk.

Legal citizens without socials? There are very few in existence but they are still able to prove their identity in other ways so I can approve them.

The requirement is not the social. In other words, I don't receive a social and automatically accept them. The social is simply gaining me access to additional information to verify who they are and what kind of risk they represent.

@Michael Biggs

All legal immigrants should have

Some illegal aliens have work authorization and social security numbers, HOWEVER, it is common in those communities to steal social security numbers from other people in order to work. It also is common amongst people in those communities to lie and make up a number.

If you can't verify someone's identity, you can't check their background. Illegal aliens have no rental history, no credit history, no criminal history that can be researched from before they entered the US. For all you know the person is a convicted felon with 20 evictions in their home country. The second they no longer can pay rent, they can steal another identity and disappear.

402-965-1853

@Nathan G.   and @Anthony Gayden    most people that are in the country illegally did not come here illegally.  They simply overstayed their visa or the government decided they should be deported for some reason.

Depending on what type of visa someone comes to the US on they will or will not be given a social security number.  As a general rule a social security number is only given to people authorized to work a job.

If a person is deported or leaves the country they keep the social security number.  In fact, they are legally required to file tax returns even after they leave the country.

I said "legal residents" not citizens often do not have social security numbers.  I think I gave a long list of types of visa holders that do not get social security numbers in the other thread.

Like I said.  The credit reporting agencies say they do not require a social security number.  Criminal history searches certainly do not require them.


Lots of illegal immigrants in the US have bank accounts that they opened with those social security numbers. Of course, many banks do not even require people to have a social security number to open an account.

I'd love to see your sources for such information. Since the Patriot Act, you need all sorts of legitimate personal data to open even a vanilla checking account. Please share.

Another big shocker... the majority of illegal immigrants in Texas live in owner occupied homes.

Once again, could you please quote your source(s) for this fact? Thanks for enlightening us all.

@Wesley W.   Here is what bank regulators check for...

https://www.ffiec.gov/bsa_aml_infobase/pages_manua...

I doubt many members of biggerpockets know what the FFIEC even is.  You have to click on footnote 48 to see one of the most important parts so I will quote it here.

"An identification number for a U.S. person is a taxpayer identification number (TIN) (or evidence of an application for one), and an identification number for a non-U.S. person is one or more of the following: a TIN; a passport number and country of issuance; an alien identification card number; or a number and country of issuance of any other unexpired government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard. TIN is defined by section 6109 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 USC 6109) and the IRS regulations implementing that section (e.g., Social Security number (SSN), individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), or employer identification number)."

If you do not know about ITINs start here...  

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxp...

In short, this is how it works in many banks.... Customer says...  "Here is my ITIN and my passport and my property tax bill showing my address."  Bank clerk says...  "Your debit card will arrive in the mail in about ten days.  Are you going to want to order checks or will you only be using your debit card on this account?  Now I need you to sign in a few places."

The Census Bureau said in 2010 it was 42% living in owner occupied homes.  The Texas state demographer is the source of the data showing the increase to more than 50%.


Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

@Michael Biggs Please explain a LEGAL method for an ILLEGAL immigrant to obtain a social security number. I've looked around and don't see that it's possible. If they are under DACA or a work permit, that makes them LEGAL and doesn't apply. I am talking about ILLEGAL immigrants.

If they come her illegally, they won't have a social and they won't have a government issued picture ID. I can't verify their identity, their resident history, their ability to pay, the criminal record, or anything else. Too much risk.

Legal citizens without socials? There are very few in existence but they are still able to prove their identity in other ways so I can approve them.

The requirement is not the social. In other words, I don't receive a social and automatically accept them. The social is simply gaining me access to additional information to verify who they are and what kind of risk they represent.

 40% of undocumented immigrants overstayed their visa. If they came with work authorization they would have received a social security number at that time. That doesn't expire, just because a visa expires. 

Anybody can request an ITIN (Individual tax identification number), since the government is always happy to take someone's money. Has the same 9 digits as social security number and allows someone to pay taxes that way. And it's probably used for other purposes.

@Michael Biggs

Okay, so let's say they are here illegally and voluntarily request a TIN so they can pay taxes, and therefore can open a bank account through which they can pay rent.  In that context alone, any illegal immigrant that LACKED such verifiable identifiers would constitute an even greater business risk in that case.

So, let's say one encounters an illegal immigrant that does indeed have a TIN (what percentage of that population are they?) and wants to rent your unit.  The OP is trying to assess the risk profile of someone who wants to rent their property or unit.  Would renting to someone who has a paper trail of their criminal and credit behavior for their entire adult life (e.g. U.S. citizen) be the same risk compared to someone who's verifiable paper trail only begins with their assignment of a TIN? 

I guess if you're only worried about evictions, bankruptcies, repossessions, or felonies within the last few years, and the illegal alien has had these identification numbers since then, the risk would be the same.  That sounds like a business decision.  

I, personally, care quite a bit whether there is anything untoward in a tenant's past even prior to a short tenure of official documentation.  To me, that is increased risk, and one I would rather not take given a choice.  Thankfully, my pool of applicants includes many people with more longitudinal documented history of behavior.

As an aside, your claim about the illegal alien home ownership rate being about 50% could be argued and refuted, but that red herring would just only be serving my pride in order to win an argument and not really be helping to answer the OP's initial question and concerns.

Originally posted by @Tom Gimer :

I think last time the consensus was don’t rent to them if they cook with a lot of spices.

 You're funny, Tom.  I wonder if everyone truly appreciates (or catches on to) your type of humor.  It's subtle.

I do. :)

Originally posted by @Alex Presnell :
We're really doing this again? OP look at the last post on this, you'll find arguments on both sides.

 Yes, THANK YOU!  The horse was sufficiently beaten last time.  I am not sure how or why it was granted a renewal.

@Frank S you can find ALL of the colorful responses to your question (that went on for days and several post pages) below.

https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/51/topics/521...

Originally posted by @Michael Biggs :

@Nathan G.   and @Anthony Gayden    most people that are in the country illegally did not come here illegally.  They simply overstayed their visa or the government decided they should be deported for some reason.

Depending on what type of visa someone comes to the US on they will or will not be given a social security number.  As a general rule a social security number is only given to people authorized to work a job.

If a person is deported or leaves the country they keep the social security number.  In fact, they are legally required to file tax returns even after they leave the country.

I said "legal residents" not citizens often do not have social security numbers.  I think I gave a long list of types of visa holders that do not get social security numbers in the other thread.

Like I said.  The credit reporting agencies say they do not require a social security number.  Criminal history searches certainly do not require them.

 First of all you are correct when you say that many simply overstayed their visa. However, the grand majority of those who overstay their visa entered the US on a B1/B2 non-immigrant visa. This non-immigrant visa NEVER allows a subject work authorization. Keeping that in mind, the majority who overstay their non-immigrant visas will not have social security numbers unless other factors apply or they obtained those cards fraudulently.

If a person overstayed their non-immigrant visa, they will not have a standard social security card. Printed on the front of the card will be the words "Valid for work only with DHS authorization." If a person is deported, they will keep that social security number, that is correct, however a social security card and number alone are not enough to verify anyone's identity, even a US citizen.

If a subject has an Employment Authorization Document (I-751) from the US government, then that suggests some form of legal status. At that point the person is a much safer bet in terms of being a tenant. Still, simply having that card does not mean a person is a legal resident.

Now you need to please repeat that list of legal residents who do not get social security numbers. The reason I say that is because I am not certain if you were clear. 

If a person is a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States and has an I-551 LPR card (green card), they can get a social security number. If a person entered the US with a non-immigrant visa, in certain circumstances that person can be authorized to work, however in many circumstances that person is not authorized to work.

If you want to ensure that you are following the law when renting your units to anyone, the first thing I suggest is that you do not overlook any of your screening process. If you can't do a background check on someone or a credit check, regardless of their legal status, there is probably a less risky tenant out there for your unit.

I like to see at least two forms of US government photo ID. A driver's license and a green card or employment authorization document would be enough. I have seen enough fraudulent foreign IDs and consular cards that I no longer trust them. Besides if a person is legally in the US, why are they presenting me with a consular card? If a person doesn't have any ID that is a huge red flag.

Keep in mind that many illegal aliens assume fake names and identities to stay off the radar. This is a bad thing for a landlord because this kind of tenant can disappear after trashing your place and owing you money.

Finally I want to remind everyone of what the law says in regards to knowingly renting a unit to an illegal alien:

https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-1907-title-8-usc-1324a-offenses

Harboring -- Subsection 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii) makes it an offense for any person who -- knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation.

402-965-1853

All you have to do is picture what will happen if you need legal recourse such as getting rent from them or stealing all your items. How can you not be in trouble with the law if you were ever to explain how these people just got up and stole all your items? 

It is often misleading to quote a statute with out mentioning the relevant case law.  That is certainly the case with harboring.

Unless you are asking for two photo ids from everyone, it would be a huge mistake to ask some people for two.  You might want to research how many people in the US has ever two government issued photo ids.

It should also be mentioned 12 states and the District of Columbia have been giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants for years.

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