Should I rent to a felon?

36 Replies

Tenant and his wife filled out a rental application 2 weeks back. I gave full disclosure that I will preform a credit and background check. 

When presented with this information he explained he had a felony 7 years ago for theft when him and his wife took flags from a golf course. They were 18 and 19. He then explained that he was unsure what their credit score would be because he and his wife don't use credit. 

I told them to fill out the application and I would get back to them. 

I was able to verify from the background check and calling up the courthouse in his previous location that they were telling the truth about the golf flags. 

That was the only offense on either or their records. Their credit score came back less than stellar but was consistent with not using credit. 

They had no prior evictions and his income is well within the 3x mark.

I called their previous landlord 3 days ago and she gave a highly positive review of the couple and told me they even cleaned her carpets for her before they left. They had never been late on rent the 2 years they lived with her and anytime she stopped by the house was tidy and they addressed any issues within a few days. I asked if she was aware of their history when she rented to them and she said she was.

They seemed like pretty genuine people. I didn't get any weird vibe from them. They seemed very well spoken. I don't know. I havent rented to felons before just because it's never came up.

I haven't had any interest in 5 weeks. I'm really considering it. 

What do you think? Would you do it?

Originally posted by @Crystal Ward :

Tenant and his wife filled out a rental application 2 weeks back. I gave full disclosure that I will preform a credit and background check. 

When presented with this information he explained he had a felony 7 years ago for theft when him and his wife took flags from a golf course. They were 18 and 19. He then explained that he was unsure what their credit score would be because he and his wife don't use credit. 

I told them to fill out the application and I would get back to them. 

I was able to verify from the background check and calling up the courthouse in his previous location that they were telling the truth about the golf flags. 

That was the only offense on either or their records. Their credit score came back less than stellar but was consistent with not using credit. 

They had no prior evictions and his income is well within the 3x mark.

I called their previous landlord 3 days ago and she gave a highly positive review of the couple and told me they even cleaned her carpets for her before they left. They had never been late on rent the 2 years they lived with her and anytime she stopped by the house was tidy and they addressed any issues within a few days. I asked if she was aware of their history when she rented to them and she said she was.

They seemed like pretty genuine people. I didn't get any weird vibe from them. They seemed very well spoken. I don't know. I havent rented to felons before just because it's never came up.

I haven't had any interest in 5 weeks. I'm really considering it. 

What do you think? Would you do it?

 Unless your criteria says you take felons, the answer is no.

Don't matter why they have a felony, if your criteria says you don't accept tenants with felonies.

Save yourself the time and hassle of trying to vet out whether or not THIS applicant with THIS felony is okay.

"Sorry, I don't accept ANY applicants who have felonies."

Rinse. Repeat.

No matter how cute they are or how persuasive they are, etc., etc., etc., etc.

Unless, of course, you are a charity or a halfway house who receives grants for housing high-risk tenants.

Yeah, didn't think so.  

Not your job to be the "one" landlord who will accept the applicant that all the other smart landlords are turning away.  Be one of the smart ones.  Just say no.

How does stealing golf course flags end up as a felony?  Was it a felony charge or conviction?

If you are considering the route of making an exception, I would definitely check with at least one more landlord.

How is the work history?

He was a full time college student with a VA loan, so he wasn't working for the two years he lived in their previous residence. His wife had the job and she worked steady the two years.

I checked with her employer and he said she was reliable and he wouldn't have a problem rehiring her if they moved back. 

He's a disabled military vet and gets a monthly income of 2x my asking rent and that's without any other source of income.

He explained that he just graduated with an engineering degree (don't remember what for) and has just relocated for his new job which he provided a letter from the company saying that he was officially hired and gave me proof of salary. Like I said, his salary is well within range.

Other than that previous employment history for him was the Army which he got discharged from honorably almost 3 years ago.

They both lived on military supplied housing so there were no other landlords.

I agree with Kyle Penland.  I'm surprised this was considered a felony, haven't you ever done anything as a "stupid kid" that you regret?  It was 7 years ago!  Since then, he has served our country, resulting in a disability.  I say give them a chance, but make it month to month until you feel comfortable with signing a long term lease. 

I rented to a felon 4 years ago - still there, doesn't miss rent, takes care of the property, etc. Being a felon doesn't make them a bad tenant - they were up front and have the income to support the rent (assuming you verified). Were you able to verify the last place they lived? it was the landlord you spoke to?

I wouldn't even go month to month - what value does that provide to you? If they are in default of the lease you evict - just like you would have to in a month to month scenario if they were doing something you didn't approve of.

My policy is NO. Once bitten twice shy. However, being the owner allows one to deviate when it seems appropriate. You seem to have done good due diligence and the offence is non violent or drug related. This guy seems to have his life going in a positive direction. Professional degree and a job.

I would add the following to what you have done. I'd call HR department to verify employment. Letters can be faked. I'd tell the couple that company policy is to not rent to felons but that you think you can get it approved with a larger deposit, a 6 month trial period lease and first month last month up front. They should understand and may be grateful that you are willing to work with them. I wouldn't charge higher rent. That may seem punitive to them. Other options are reasonable and fair. This couple could turn out to be great tenants and if you are unfair with the rent they just may move out once they learn more about the area. 

JMHO

i have a friend who got caught up in a some bad stuff, now he's a felon. He is an honorable, loyal, and trustworthy guy. He would be a fantastic tenant but I'm sure he runs into similar problems, and always will. 

7 years is a long time. If he had a BK it wouldn't even show after 7 years. 

If all else is good, I say it's a non-issue

As long as being a felon does not violate your screening criteria, I would probably rent to them based on all the other facts you gave. With that being said, I don't see how anyone gets a felony for stealing something of such little value with no priors. It seems inconceivable. There has to be more to the story. I would try and find out.
Originally posted by @Darren Budahn:
As long as being a felon does not violate your screening criteria, I would probably rent to them based on all the other facts you gave.

With that being said, I don't see how anyone gets a felony for stealing something of such little value with no priors. It seems inconceivable. There has to be more to the story. I would try and find out.


Originally posted by @Darren Budahn :
As long as being a felon does not violate your screening criteria, I would probably rent to them based on all the other facts you gave.

With that being said, I don't see how anyone gets a felony for stealing something of such little value with no priors. It seems inconceivable. There has to be more to the story. I would try and find out.

 A felony generally means $500 or more in damages.  That was the amount, at any rate, when I was learning about felonies in college.  The amount may be more now.  

And what my main point to landlords/managers in this type of situation, is that any vetting of issues you normally say are a no-go on your criteria, affects you negatively in 2 ways:

1) look at the time involved in trying to make a felony "acceptable."  All the time you take turning into a detective to see if the "reason" they are a felon is acceptable.  Unless you have zero applicants behind this one, why spend the time trying to turn an item on your "unacceptable" criteria list - acceptable? and:

2) you put yourself in a position to get in trouble if there is a fair housing complaint down the road.  How can you say one tenant with a felony is okay, then later say applicants with felonies are not okay?  What if one was a protected class?  And they can say, but hey, you rented to that felon!  Why not me?  Is it because of my class?

Why put yourselves through all of this time and hassle?  Granted, if you have absolutely no other applicants calling, then okay.  If they are truly the best of any other possible applicants you can get, then okay.

But, I think this is typical of new landlords and managers.  You want to be "nice" and "fair," and of course, you want to get that unit rented.  

And also, of course there are exceptions.  There is that one felon who turned out to be a great tenant.  But what are the odds?  Why take the chance if you don't have to?

The time you spend vetting this applicant could be spent vetting the next ones.  

And honestly, as much as we love our military, just because they got an honorable discharge doesn't mean they will be a great tenant.  It's not unpatriotic to enforce your criteria across the board.

Alright.  I'm done :-)

Originally posted by @Darren Budahn :
As long as being a felon does not violate your screening criteria, I would probably rent to them based on all the other facts you gave.

With that being said, I don't see how anyone gets a felony for stealing something of such little value with no priors. It seems inconceivable. There has to be more to the story. I would try and find out.

I do know in my area that theft of any items with a value over $500 is considered a felony. I had the arrest affidavit faxed to me and it stated that 5 flags and a cooler were recovered at an estimated value of $1000 and the water cooler was estimated at $80. It stated the estimates were made by the arresting officer. 

 Even if by the letter of the law stealing something over $500 is a felony, I can't believe they couldn't plead down to some misdemeanor.  Sounds like a town where you don't want to get in any trouble. 

Anyway, good job of getting to the bottom of the story. 

Originally posted by @Darren Budahn :
As long as being a felon does not violate your screening criteria, I would probably rent to them based on all the other facts you gave.

With that being said, I don't see how anyone gets a felony for stealing something of such little value with no priors. It seems inconceivable. There has to be more to the story. I would try and find out.

I do know in my area that theft of any items with a value over $500 is considered a felony. I had the arrest affidavit faxed to me and it stated that 5 flags and a cooler were recovered at an estimated value of $1000 and the water cooler was estimated at $80. It stated the estimates were made by the arresting officer. 

I'd deny based on this reason from Sue Kelly.

1) look at the time involved in trying to make a felony "acceptable." All the time you take turning into a detective to see if the "reason" they are a felon is acceptable. Unless you have zero applicants behind this one, why spend the time trying to turn an item on your "unacceptable" criteria list - acceptable?

Originally posted by @James Wise :

I'd deny based on this reason from Sue Kelly.

1) look at the time involved in trying to make a felony "acceptable." All the time you take turning into a detective to see if the "reason" they are a felon is acceptable. Unless you have zero applicants behind this one, why spend the time trying to turn an item on your "unacceptable" criteria list - acceptable?

 Whatever happened to giving someone a second chance? Cmon on guys, you're human, not machines.

I probably would give them the tenancy. They've been up front about it from the start (it's not something you discovered), it really was something done that was probably when drunk, and we've all done something stupid (although maybe not felonious stupid).

If this was anything to do with violence, abuse, robbery, drugs, I'd be first to kick them to the kerb.

But stealing golf course flags? Cmon. 

Okay, after sleeping on it, I decided I am going to allow them to take residency in my property. 

We came to an agreement that we would do a 6 month lease to start, and then move to a year long lease if there are no issues. 

I know this was against the judgement of some comments, but I do agree that theft of golf flags seems to be more of a drunken mistake than something I would consider to be criminal. 

I do appreciate all of your comments on this circumstance. 

Hopefully everything works out for the best!

I would rent to them if all else was good.  I don't mess with violent criminals but stupid stuff like that, who cares.  You want financial performance.  Not a  role model for your kids.

Good luck.  It seems like a reasonable exception to make.

Even though you have the place rented, you may want to look at why there was so little interest.  I wouldn't ask the new tenants, but fellow investors or real estate agents could be good options.

@Crystal Ward

I've personally rented to many felons in the past on a case by case basis with much success.  Regardless of the feedback you receive, you will have to make the final decision and you will have to bear the fruits of your choice, I would say go with your intuition based on the information you have at hand.  

Best of luck,

-Ravi