Felon Friendly Rentals

11 Replies

Does anyone know of any properties in the San Antonio area that are felon friendly? I ran into a financially stable family, facing the challenges of finding a house due to the background of a family member. They are looking to rent instead of buy, due to their desire to relocate in about 4 years, after retirement of active duty. Thanks in advance!

@Bernadine Holloway  I can't answer your question directly, because we are in a different market. But I do know it can be difficult for people with negative legal history to find housing. I used to volunteer teaching classes to people who were facing challenges in finding housing due to their past history.

My advice to a person with negative history is to re-frame it in their mind, boost their self-esteem, and present themselves as renters who have learned from their mistakes and have reinvented themselves as responsible and law-abiding.  Landlords need good renters as much as renters need good landlords.   Great renters follow the terms of the rental agreement, pay rent on time and take care of the place. They also are cooperative, honest and congenial.

There are many landlords who will not accept a person because of a felony. Then there are others, like my husband and me, who will consider renting to a person with negative legal history on a case by case basis. 

I cringe when I hear someone say "felon friendly". I would advise a person to put forth their positive attributes ahead of their negative history. Also, it's important not to wear the term "felon" like a scarlet letter.  The felony does not define who they are. What they have done since the felony is most important. Have they made retribution to those they have wronged in the past? Are they likely to not re-offend? What are they doing to re-establish themselves as worthy and contributing members of the community? One should never lie about their legal history, but instead embrace it as something that unfortunately happened, but they have been able to overcome and put behind them.  Have they bettered themselves and made amends for their past mistakes? What have they learned and who have they become?

Here is an excerpt from our rental criteria, so you can get an idea of what landlords who would consider renting to someone with legal history might examine. Note, there are some felonies that are so serious it would be too high a risk for us to consider.

LEGAL/CRIMINAL HISTORY

1. Criminal offenses of a violent nature against either person or property will result in denial.

2. Applicants with a non-violent criminal misdemeanor that occurred more than two years ago or a non-violent criminal felony that occurred more than five years ago may be considered if restitution for their crime was made in full and all time was served.  Also, we may require an additional security deposit and demonstration of good employment history, credit history, and rental history since the time of the crime.  Multiple offenses may result in denial regardless of what the employment, credit and rental history shows.

Great and much appreciated feedback! I will definitely pass this on. Thank you!

HUD released guidelines in 2016 saying Landlords and Property Managers are not allowed to enforce "blanket bans" based on criminal history. Read this article for a decent summary. This may help you better prepare for questions from a Landlord or Property Manager that automatically rejects the application.

We can still reject felons but we need to justify our rejection. For example, recidivism (the tendency to commit more crimes) is very high, particularly for certain felons. Therefore, I will not rent to someone until they've shown 5-7 years of clean living, depending on the crime. Some felons will never pass my screening (violent crimes, sex offenders). If someone were a felon due to treason, there's little reason to suspect they will be a danger to my property or other people so they may be allowed.

The point is, we need to treat people like people. Standards are a necessity, but we need to understand why we establish standards and when to deviate from them.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

HUD released guidelines in 2016 saying Landlords and Property Managers are not allowed to enforce "blanket bans" based on criminal history. Read this article for a decent summary. This may help you better prepare for questions from a Landlord or Property Manager that automatically rejects the application.

We can still reject felons but we need to justify our rejection. For example, recidivism (the tendency to commit more crimes) is very high, particularly for certain felons. Therefore, I will not rent to someone until they've shown 5-7 years of clean living, depending on the crime. Some felons will never pass my screening (violent crimes, sex offenders). If someone were a felon due to treason, there's little reason to suspect they will be a danger to my property or other people so they may be allowed.

The point is, we need to treat people like people. Standards are a necessity, but we need to understand why we establish standards and when to deviate from them.

 If someone were a felon due to treason and they were out of prison or hadn’t been executed yet, it would be quite an accomplishment. I’d probably rent to them too. Maybe there’s a market for still living Rosenbergs out there. Could be a profitable niche... :-) . I’ll probably stick with rapists and agg assault cases myself.

One of the problems that landlords may have renting to felons (and perhaps this is more of a "screen out" factor than a "problem") is that someone with a felon background may have difficulty finding employment that pays enough to meet income requirements for the rental.  Just as landlords may be hesitant to rent to them, employment opportunities may be limited to only the lowest paying choices.

My experience renting to someone who had a felon background did not work out.  While he was already in a work program (maintenance in a local hotel) and came HIGHLY recommended by both his supervisors (so highly recommended they provided him with furniture and cooking products since he came with nothing) and his parole officer, his tenancy with me lasted only four months. 

He was not a young man but rather someone in his mid 50's.  Got himself a  girlfriend, went to a barbecue where someone hit up on his girlfriend; he went after the guy with a knife, broke his parole and ended up back in prison.

It was at that point I learned he had also gotten himself a unapproved roommate who made HIS living selling drugs out of my house.  Was able to toss HIM out, change the locks and, at that point, wash my hands of dealing with this felon business.

Just as an aside...my own partners brother has spent years off and on in prison (mainly for drug related issues); a nice guy but a three time loser.  No employment except the family business that he stole from (his mothers silverware, the family safe, my partners car, etc.).  He's out again, living in the family home as he had no other place to live; took care of his aging mom and managed to embezzle $300+K of her savings in the process.   This was learned after mom passed away.

His only friends are either other druggies or other felons that keep showing up at the family home.   This also is something that a landlord probably would need to be aware of in renting to someone with such a background.  Sometimes their only friends are other felons.

Gail

I understand the dilemma but also know that there are people out there who would make good tenants because they have a less than perfect background.They realize they have fewer options but need an approved address to continue if they're still on supervision (probation or parole). Your best insurance is a good relationship with their supervising officer. If they screw up, they can face going back to incarceration. Another way is to work with a recognized reentry program to help their screened clients find housing. People from a program like that have been screened by the organization first.

There is always a risk in renting, with or without a background. But one of the biggest factors in keeping people from returning to incarceration is having a job & a safe place to live. Marcia has a really good attitude & sounds like she'd be a great landlord.

They may simply need to lower their standards. There are many C/D class communities that have no issues taking ex-cons. May want to consider a mobile home community with lower entrance standards.

Tenants with issues like this need to adjust their thinking and accept that there is a price they must pay for past actions..

I know someone who spent four years plus a few months on an involuntary manslaughter charge. 

He had no problem renting in working class neighborhoods, now that I think about it.

One of his previous landlords has a more extensive criminal background than HE does! (tax evasion, liquor violations in bar business, slumlording, etc.).

@Bernadine Holloway ,

My best advice is to be upfront with landlords, write them a nice letter explaining the entire situation.   If I were you, I'd make a nice template, clearly stating the entire amount of income for the house,  length at jobs, and average credit scores, and just be upfront about stuff!   You sound like a nice, clean cut family-- include pictures so they know who they are working with!    I always say  "I can rent to someone with a past, I can't rent to a liar"... so just tell them, if you like the place it will be on the background check, so it will save you $$ if you tell them upfront about the issues.  I HATE surprises, but if I know something is coming, it  doesn't bother me as much.

I will say, the person with the felony will be HEAVILY scrutinized, so check FB/instagram/job history... We had 1 applicant who had a felony, and at first we were open to him... until we checked his FB ( don't think an alias will stop people from finding you, smart people connect friends/family).... I've never seen so many pictures of obvious drug use, selling, and because of the applicant, I had to lookup "gang signs" and match pictures!   I now know what "BK" actually stands for!  :(

"One of his previous landlords has a more extensive"

The obvious difference, aside from the nature of his crimes, being that a landlord is in a position of power where as a tenant in not.

Tenants need to recognise the fact that landlords have options where as they, as tenants, may not.

He who has the gold makes the rules....as they say.

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