A tenant with criminal records

32 Replies

Dear BP Community,

I am reviewing an application for a potential tenant. this is a couple, not legally married, without kids.

They are both in their early twenties (22), first time moving in together. They are willing to pay upfront 4 month rent (3 month plus a security deposit ) and to sign a two-years lease.

However, the boyfriend had two criminal records in the past one when he was 16 (Violation Of Compulsory Attendance Req Child), and another one when he was 18 (Disorder Conduct Hazardous/Physi Off), I am not even sure what those violations mean but should i even pay attention to them since they happened over 4 years ago?

thank you all in advance,

E K 

I would research them and see what they are specifically. I personally don't accept anyone with a criminal record with crimes against people and/or property.  I suspect that's what these records are.  One of the first steps to mitigating your risk as a landlord is to assess that risk with as much information as you can garner.

I would not sign a 2 year lease. Sign 1 year with the understanding if everything goes well we’ll all renew. Things change, they may want to move, you may want them out, or rents can go up.

I’m all for giving someone a second chance, but you need to be realistic about it. If its “we were all kids once”, that’s probably better than more severe convictions.

I agree with everything stated above.  I just want to also add that in my opinion, you should be very cautious when accepting pre-paid rent.  I'm not an experienced landlord so maybe I'm wrong here but if you take pre-paid rent I would imagine it would be a complete nightmare to evict if you should have to within the first 3 months.  You accepted payment so therefore they are entitled to living there.  Also what happens after the 3 months... in theory they should pay you on time and be ahead of the game since they have been saving but in actuality it might not be the case because they needed that $3,500 75in smart TV for their new living room.  Not saying this will 100% be the case but just it's just a different perspective. 

Red flags that would disqualify them from renting from me:

1) known criminal record

2) young not married couple.

3) First time living together

4) Offering of bribe (pre rent payment)

5) Asking for 2year lease.

In my experience all of these are major red flags application. Although some reasons may be in conflict with fair housing I don't really care when protection of my investment is concerned.

I would guess that:

1) they had low credit scores if any score.

2) each alone does not have sufficient income to qualify for the rental by themselves.

When screening young unmarried couples each must qualify fully on their own merit otherwise both are rejected. Likely hood is that they will split up and you will either suffer a vacancy or one will remain and you will be forced to evict.

I would not rent to these two under any conseviable circumstance. I prefer to make money as opposed to operate as a charity giving unqualified applicants a "chance".

Don't accept prepaid rent

Don't sign a 2 year lease

Renting to a past criminal is fine. Criminals aren't all evil, some just make poor decisions, and the system is not designed to help. I give a long leash of understanding for past behavior personally. Especially for someone 16 & 18, even I was a criminal at that age so hard for me to hold it against anyone ;)

@Eli M. so the first charge, he was truant from school when he was 16. He was a minor and that is not a major offense. Usually minor records are sealed.

Disorderly was most likely some type of fight or argument in public. Could have been drunk yelling at 3AM or who knows. There is a wide bucket that charge can cover. It is kind of the catch all for just acting like a jerk in public. Generally it is a very low class misdemeanor so if it was a fight, then it wasn't serious.

Nothing serious here in my opinion. Most people block felons or violent/drug felonies and don't worry so much about lesser charges. Make a policy and stick to it. 

16, 18, 22 years old....they are not done getting in trouble in their lives yet.

If your screening system does not define every criminal act that will or will not be accepted you must accept all applicants with criminal records. If you allow some and not othrs legally you will need a all inclusive list of crimes that you will or will not accept.

Not sure why landlords believe themselves to be social workers. If you reject them they will end up finding a basement apartment with a mom and pop landlord....which is where they should be renting.

The criminal charges wouldn’t bother me as much as them being young AND unmarried and pre paying the rent. I’m not saying everyone should/needs to be married when they live together, but I have seen too many relationships fail and then the landlord is left with the short end of the stick. It’s just not a chance I would take. Have they said how long they’ve been together? If it’s been 3-4 years, that may sway me a little bit, but even then they could lie and there’s no way to confirm it. As for the pre-paid rent, it’s tax season and everyone can pay 3+ months up front. Like the above post said, they’re “bribing” their way into renting from you. Good luck!

thank you all for your responses.

this is really the first time for me that i have to deal with such a case.

i just don't fully understand why is one year lease better than two year lease in such a case?

And why is a pre-paid rent such a bad thing, they are willing to give cash ($9K) and this way i am guaranteed at least 3 month of paid rent?

Please, advise. 

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :

@Eli M. so the first charge, he was truant from school when he was 16. He was a minor and that is not a major offense. Usually minor records are sealed.

Disorderly was most likely some type of fight or argument in public. Could have been drunk yelling at 3AM or who knows. There is a wide bucket that charge can cover. It is kind of the catch all for just acting like a jerk in public. Generally it is a very low class misdemeanor so if it was a fight, then it wasn't serious.

Nothing serious here in my opinion. Most people block felons or violent/drug felonies and don't worry so much about lesser charges. Make a policy and stick to it. 

 Thank you!

How were you able to check this?

I also spoke with two of her previous landlords and one of his previous landlord and everyone had good things to say about them.

She also offered to have her friend as a co-signor

What is better to have an extra co-signor or accept extra four month of prepaid rent ? 

The reason a term lease is a issue with high risk tenants of this sort is that when they start to cause problems they are very difficult to evict. You could conceivably be tied to bad tenants for two full years. By the same token tenants do not have to respect a lease and can leave when ever they choose. M2M is by far the safest lease a landlord can have. Good tenants will stay exactly the same length of time while bad tenants can simply be non renewed with only a month notice.

A offer to pre pay rent is a indication that the applicant knows full well they are a high tenant risk and are attempting to bribe a landlord. It could be the last money you see and you may face a expensive eviction.

Additionally a pre payment remains the property of though tenant and may not be used by though landlord. The pre payment should be kept in a separate act that the landlord draws the monthly rent from as it comes due. Legally a tenant may ask for any money remaining in the accounts the day they move into the unit if they choose.

These applicants has soooooooo many red flags that no one but mom and pop would be fool enough to rent from them. They might not turn out to be bad tenants but are very high risk and will likely never be good tenants. They are simply not worth the risk.

How confident are you that the landlord references were actually landlords. Never trust "friends" as co-signers.

The offer of a bribe taints all other information you may have on these applicants. Good tenants do not need to offer bribes. Short sighted landlords accept bribes.

Did he give you these offenses? usually its felonies that can be cause for concern. The truancy , i am not sure how that is even showing up but this should be a misdomeaner. The second one is not clear you would need to check if it is a felony. That said there are too many other things for a two year lease it would be a no go. Maybe m2m if you have good jobs for both and they have payment history/credit which I doubt.

Do they have income? Dogs? A friend charges first and last month plus security for credit risks. So maybe save one month prepaid for the last month. Did you get paycheck stubs? If they can pay, have no evictions and sounds like they have a good reference...I don’t see a huge amount of risk. Might want to inspect in a few months to be on the safe side.

Originally posted by @Eli M. :

thank you all for your responses.

this is really the first time for me that i have to deal with such a case.

i just don't fully understand why is one year lease better than two year lease in such a case?

And why is a pre-paid rent such a bad thing, they are willing to give cash ($9K) and this way i am guaranteed at least 3 month of paid rent?

Please, advise. 

A few things, usually people offer multiple months of rent if they are

1) poor at financial management and need to get a small amount of money (like a tax return) out of their hands, and might be unable to budget their money for the next 21 months. 

2) If your tenants pay ahead, in some jurisdictions it might be more difficult to evict if for instance they magically have a dog, or someone who isn't on the lease shows up in the apartment. In many areas it can be tough to evict for something other than non payment. 

3) If you have a really good tenant, they are going to extend anyhow, if you have issues with a tenant, a shorter lease will make it easier to do a no renewal (assuming that is allowed in NY).  The only time we go more than a year is when we are trying to get a lease to terminate in the spring.  (We have found that we can get our highest rents if we have a lease coming due in the Mar-May timeframe.  

The charges are minor so that is not too concerning to me. The biggest concern is the fact that they are 22 years old and just starting out together. They could break up and one would then move out and the one left may not be able to afford the rent on his or her own. Also since they are just starting out they do not have enough history to know if they will be responsible with taking care of your property and paying their rent on time.

If you do rent to them DO NOT even consider a 2 year lease. It will make it harder to evict them and if one or both of them decide to move out they will not care that they signed a 2 year lease. A two year lease benefits the tenants more than you. I would do a month to month lease if you decide to rent to them so that you can more easily just non renewal their lease without having to do a costly eviction if they turn out to be bad tenants.

Go with your gut.  NYC is a very difficult place to be a landlord.  We have a 4-family house, and we check social media accounts, ask for personal references, check credit, and don't allow anyone who isn't approved and vetted by us to move in.  If they get in a fight or whatever you could be stuck with someone you don't even know.  Getting people out is an ordeal, so err on the conservative side.  I would probably also require a co-signer.  

We also charge the tenant an application fee, and when we get a good tenant we often lower the rent below market rate, keep the place nice, and great people stay for years.  

Good luck to you.

(917) 975-0143

@Eli M. I would check proof of employment, credit history before moving forward. Make sure employment is strong to sign a lease. 3 Months upfront with deposit is ok but this shows they might have trouble finding something else which is why they want to give so much money upfront. I always go with strong credit and employment history before making any decision. 

Jack V. Ospina, Broker in Florida (#BK3253158)
305-815-8384
Originally posted by @Eli M. :

Dear BP Community,

I am reviewing an application for a potential tenant. this is a couple, not legally married, without kids.

They are both in their early twenties (22), first time moving in together. They are willing to pay upfront 4 month rent (3 month plus a security deposit ) and to sign a two-years lease.

However, the boyfriend had two criminal records in the past one when he was 16 (Violation Of Compulsory Attendance Req Child), and another one when he was 18 (Disorder Conduct Hazardous/Physi Off), I am not even sure what those violations mean but should i even pay attention to them since they happened over 4 years ago?

thank you all in advance,

E K 

 With all the comments I am surprised that I didn't see the following question asked.

What type of asset are you renting out? A-Class house? B,C,D,F....The type of property you have along with the neighborhood that it's in is going to be the #1 factor in determining your tenant pool.

James Wise, Real Estate Agent in OH (#2015001161)
216-661-6633
@Eli M. - I would recommend switching it to 2 months security deposit and first & last months rent on a month-to-month or one year lease. At the end of the first year, if everybody is still happy, then you can go to a 2-year lease. You don't want to tie yourself to a two-year lease. What if they're horrible tenants?

@Carol C.

"then you can go to a 2-year lease."....Why ??????

Once a landlord and tenant have a proven relationship there is no need for either to tie the other into a fixed contract. M2M is always your best option as a landlord but also can benefit good tenants. Every tenant encounters unexpected events in their life and considering how long 2 years is it is highly likely they may be forced to break their lease. Good tenants on M2M will be much more forthcoming in informing their landlord of a upcoming move. This will usually help a landlord to avoid a vacancy.

Term leases are not the answer and will have no bearing on when tenant will move. All it does is force tenants to break a lease, likely without notice.

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