renting with a criminal background

11 Replies

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? I'm not sure if this is the place to ask so I will try the landlord forum as well.

Some landlords have a strict no-criminal-record policy, and will refuse to consider anyone convicted of a crime.  Other landlords draw the line between misdemeanors and felonies.  Other landlords take it on a case by case basis.  Others don't care at all. 

Personally, I would want the straight truth from my applicants.  I'm a firm believe in second chances.  But, I have a hard time accepting liars.  I can trust a person who makes mistakes, because I make plenty.  I can't trust a liar, period.  And if I discover an applicant lied on a rental application, there's a 99% chance I won't rent to that person.

I say, be honest.  Once you're in a place that knows the truth, you'll feel so much better mentally and emotionally because you won't feel like you always have to be on guard about hiding something.  That goes for your spouse as well.  That stress from hiding something will seep into your personal relationship with each other and damage your marriage.  You don't need that.

And if a place (or two, or three) turns you down because of your man's criminal record, just keep looking.  He made the mistake, and now he has to live with the fallout from that mistake.  That means having a tougher time than others in finding jobs and places to live.  Tougher, not impossible.  But he can get through this.  It might even make him a better man for having gone through it.

Good luck.

Some landlords do and some don't. I would suggest he learn how to talk about his legal history. If he were applying to rent from us, we would look for open and honest communication. He would need to demonstrate he has made full restitution for his crime. The adjudication documentation would be key. He 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 he 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. 

Pay rent on time, take care of the place and follow the terms of your rental agreement. Does your current landlord know he 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. 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.

Like Randy said, landlords vary a lot in what they will accept.  I am leaning towards the clean criminal record path because while the idea of giving second chances sounds nice, I got burned by two different employees that I gave seconds chances to.  I can't afford (literally) to have thieves or druggies around any more.  This may hurt some people that did something stupid and got scared straight, but someone else can be the social workers next time.

ETA: Like Randy said be sure to be very upfront about it on the application and explain things so they don't learn about it when they pull the background check.

Thanks Randy and you all. I owned a home for 9 years prior and I hope this move will be my last for the next 4-5 years. We need more space because we want another baby. I think I will continue to be upfront and hope something good happens. I hate the thought of being an adult who has to "hide" from landlord.

Originally posted by @Alexis W. :

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? I'm not sure if this is the place to ask so I will try the landlord forum as well.

 Why don't you pay for a credit/background check for your husband and see if the crime shows up?  Maybe it doesn't.  And so many landlords don't do criminal checks, anyway.  The owner I worked for didn't let me spend money on criminal checks.  I thought he was nuts, but there you have it.  He would only pay for credit and eviction reports.

I had to look up "adjudication of guilt withheld" meaning.  It means your husband was not found guilty, and was not convicted of a crime.  He was put on probation without either of the two.  So, it would be legal in my opinion, so say he was never convicted of a crime/felony.  

So, that's what I'd do.  Answer "no" to ever having been convicted.  

I hope you're wildly happy with your new child, and that you're able to buy another home soon.  Good luck.

This was the legal definition I found:  

http://definitions.uslegal.com/w/withheld-adjudica...

@Alexis W.

 I agree with @Sue K. and do a check and put no because he hasn't been convicted.  As a landlord I see this same as a job interview I meet the potential tenant show them the place and evaluate how they hold themselves, how they speak, how their kids act, what their cars look like etc.  Then if I like them I call their previous landlords.  As a landlord you can't say certain things to make a tenant ineligible from finding a place to live, just like you can't say certain things to keep someone from getting a job, safe bet is no comment.  Often times if you have a good tenant they will actually say yes they are really good, they always pay on time, they maintain the place, we never had a problem with them and are sad that they are leaving blah blah blah.   If they pass all these things and didn't commit a major crime, I would be happy to have them, though as others have said each scenario is different and people do make mistakes.

As soon as the statutes may allow, it might be well worth the money to hire an attorney and get the record expunged. Laws vary by state, etc. If this was his only offense, it sounds like he might have a good chance of doing that. Some states require a certain time period after the offense before one can apply to have it expunged. Talk to an attorney in your state and see if that option is open. Getting it expunged will give him the ability to get past it and move forward. As far as my policy, I don't allow convicted felons and will accept applicants with misdemeanors over five years old. Good luck.

John Thedford, Real Estate Agent in FL (#BK3098153)
239-200-5600

As you all were kind enough to respond, I thought I was share the good news that we were able to find a place. We paid for our own background screening; the incident does show up. I put that together with our other court documentation and a summary letter so I could provide all that info when asked. The next place we applied accepted this.

Congratulations, @Alexis W. !  I am so happy for you.  

If the landlord has a no felony policy and rents to you , and then turns down another felon the landlord is leaving themselves open to a discrimination lawsuit 

Originally posted by @Alexis W. :

As you all were kind enough to respond, I thought I was share the good news that we were able to find a place. We paid for our own background screening; the incident does show up. I put that together with our other court documentation and a summary letter so I could provide all that info when asked. The next place we applied accepted this.

 Yay!  Well done :-)

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