Potential tenant meets all minimum requirements but has a felony

8 Replies

Hey BP members!

We are turning over our first unit and just listed it a week ago. Within two days we had an eager potential tenant that is currently living w/parents while looking to lease ASAP. They've been in the living situation with family for 5 years and had an 8 month stint away where the male and female adults lived in a sober living house after she was convicted for drug possession. She was convicted of a felony back in 2013 and has been clean for 5 years.

Our minimum requirements do not state "no felonies" on your record. We've spoken to his employer and his mother (where they live now) for employment verification and character references. Everything checks out - clean, responsible, hard working, family oriented...

What are your thoughts on accepting their application?

@Ryan Judah If everything seems alright now, and there are no better applicants, why not? I understand the scare and risk, but that's part of the business. I respect the fact they told the truth, that says a lot to me. As long as you have a solid lease in terms of late and non payment, your risk should be minimized.

Now if you have an applicant that may be a better fit, that's a different story. If this is the best one, go with it IMO.

If you are of the opinion that you will have no other applicants you really only have two choices, hold out for additional applicants or accept this high risk couple and possibly be forced to evict.

You are dealing with extremely unstable applicants, living with parents, both drug addicts, felony. Red flags galore.

Highly likely they will be unreliable regarding rent payment and not worth the risk under my screening practices. I never rent to anyone that is living with parents. They usually have no financial responsibility/skills

Only a very despirate or very inexperienced landlord would accept this couple after listing for only two days. Ignore the red flags at your own risk.

@Ryan Judah when you have a screening policy, there should be justification for it. Why do you have a policy of rejecting anyone with a felony conviction? Because other Landlords do it? Did you read it on BP? Or did you actually think through the process, determine the risk, and develop a policy that makes sense?

The purpose of screening out a felon is that they may be a danger to you, the neighbors, or your property. However, there are many felons that serve their time and then become productive citizens. You also have to consider the nature of the felony. Was it for murder, rape, repeat drunk driving, tax evasion? How long has it been since they served their sentence? 6 months or 10 years? Does their recent record show they've been clean, working, and obeying the law?

HUD came out with guidance in 2015 that said we should not have a blanket policy of rejecting anyone with a criminal record and this is exactly why. Too many Landlords say they won't rent to felons or criminals but there's no justification for it.

If it was a drug issue but they've been out and clean for five years, I would say that's pretty low risk. I'm more concerned about the fact she's living with her parents still.

I agree with @Nathan G. 's points and we employ similar methods and guidelines. We reserve the right to turn tenants down for criminal history but this should really reflect a reasoning as to why. For example murderers and rapists could be dangerous to others living at the property. If someone has a felony drug charge from 5 years ago but has paid their time, been clean, and exhibited responsible work and social habits, they could certainly be a good potential tenant. Quite simply, as a landlord, you want to make sure everyone renting your property is safe and has a good place to live while giving yourself the tenants that you believe are most likely to pay fully and on time every month.

Appreciate the solid points everyone. We clearly need to firm up our tenant screening process so these decisions are more black and white in the future.

  • Hello Ryan!  I think I would go ahead and forgive them but have a "probation" period that is shorter than the typical lease.  Maybe 4 months would be reasonable period to see how how they perform and are they  a candidate for a long lease, like 12 months.  Oftentimes, a person will change and go towards the good side or will they still be a danger.  A reasonable time period with a clause in the lease says something that says you cannot be victimized by them or fails any of your rules or the law so you can ask them to leave with no penalty, especially regarding proper compensation to your place and the rental rate.  I do not have any experience but this describes what I recommend.  It depends on what the demand is for your place of rentals.  The 5 years spent with parents shows that they may have come back from prison changed.  You might want to talk to one of his parents to see if he has stayed out of trouble.  Good luck!

Since her parents are supporting her, emotionally and financially, have you thought about having them co-sign the application? If she relapsed the parents would then be responsible for the rent.