Found out new tenant has criminal charges pending

18 Replies

So this is great. I just accepted a family in our condo with great income and credit. Credit and background checks passed. But now my wife found stories in the news that the guy is facing felony charges surrounding his use of computers to solicit sexual contact with a minor. I confirmed with our County Superior Court that the court proceedings will start in August.

But they have not moved in yet. The move-in date was July 1, so I still have runway to find a new tenant. But I have their security deposit, first month's rent, and a signed lease agreement already. Can I just send it back? Do I need a lawyer to break the lease agreement?

Being charged with a crime is not the same as being convicted.

Many localities have laws against what you are proposing to do.   Fair housing laws now do not allow you to simply reject anyone that has ever had a felony.   Using arrest records instead of convictions is seen as form of discrimination as certain minority groups are targeted for arrests.

If you do not want to rent to them, I would seek legal counsel on this issue to avoid getting yourself in hot water.

I definitely agree with @Greg Scott . Seek legal counsel BEFORE making any decisions, especially before talking to the renter at all. An Orlando Realtor was recently sued because he denied tenants due to "Not liking to work with felons". In the case, it was determined that “There’s nothing in the Fair Housing Act specifically denying a landlord the right to reject an applicant based on a prior felony conviction, however a blanket policy to deny felons can have an indirect impact on minority populations (disparate impact)."

You have a signed lease. You cannot just back out. As others stated, he is charged but NOT convicted. 

@Benjamin Richards Seeking legal counsel is the best advice - did you sign the lease agreement? Because potentially that could be an out. A charge is not a conviction so it won't show up on screening - however, an arrest should've if it was in the last seven years. You definitely don't want this person on your property even if he hasn't been formally convicted! If it was the family without him that might be a different story. Checking your local and state laws about breaking lease agreements will be important - all things a lawyer can help you with.

@Benjamin Richards

I see this all the time on here on how these software systems that are supposed to screen this stuff miss it altogether. I for one would not want a pervert in my building . I’d rather have a crackhead than some sicko kid toucher . I’d find a way to get out of this one way or another

Originally posted by @Dennis M. :

@Benjamin Richards

I see this all the time on here on how these software systems that are supposed to screen this stuff miss it altogether. I for one would not want a pervert in my building . I’d rather have a crackhead than some sicko kid toucher . I’d find a way to get out of this one way or another

Dude, whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?  You are ready to kick this guy and his whole family to the curb before he's had a chance to tell his side of the story in a court of law.  The OP has a valid contract - his lawyer advised him that it is a valid contract.  I suppose he could offer cash for keys, but otherwise, why not wait and see what happens.  If he is innocent, he deserves to live there and if he does get convicted, chances are he will live "off-site" for a good while anyhow, so, either way, he won't likely be a problem.

@Andrew S.

I understand your position .My comment was based on the premise he is ultimately found guilty . You are right in saying we shouldn’t jump the gun and assume guilt . Normally in these type of cases they don’t get too far unless they have tangible evidence and a pretty strong case to bring it to court given the nature of the crime .

@Benjamin Richards I saw your response and update. Sadly, I understand where you are coming from. I failed to vet a prospect and she burned me real badly !

So, I get it. In oregon, there is a new law that you cannot use a felony charge if older than one year as a reason to not accept. But, I still work hard to protect myself since my state will not. Hope it works out for you.

@Benjamin Richards

My attorney advised me the same things. I am in similar situation but the tenants end up being my best tenants. I recently renew their lease. Sometime in life, we need to give people a fair and equitable chance. Sometime biased unknown get in our way and end up in deep situation with the Fair Housing issue. I always consult with my attorney.

Alex

A lot of states nowadays have Meghan's Law where the whole community will be notified of a presence of a sex offender and also restrictions on where such a person may live (not within so and so distance of a school, church etc).  If this guy is convicted I wonder what happens when all the neighbors found out about it?  Something to think about (sorry to add to your worries).

This is why I always Google the heck out of any applicants before accepting a deposit.  However, I do all of this due diligence before running the background check, which is the last thing I usually do.

I understand "innocent until proven guilty" so we have to temper our zeal to shoot from the hip, but the fact of the matter is - as others have correctly stated - they do not bring charges in these kinds of cases unless they have some hard evidence.  This is not one of those cases where it is a "he said, she said."  I would bet that they have seized his computer and phone and did a forensic search and found enough evidence to make the charges stick.

I always do my own research on applicants in addition to paying a company to run the background check.

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