Do I Have To Disclose My Criminal Record On Housing Applications?


Typically, landlords look for great tenants; that way, they can limit any serious issue that could arise later. Having a felony record, therefore, puts you in a difficult position considering that you may face challenges accessing several services.

For example, you will find it harder to date, get into college, or get a job with a criminal record. Almost everything takes an entirely new tone.

So, can you be denied housing due to a criminal record?

Well, there are laws that prevent landlords and property managers from discriminating against potential tenants on the grounds of religious beliefs and race. However, there are no such laws when it comes to criminal records.

If your felony record doesn’t come clean, your potential client can easily choose not to rent you his apartment.

Do Most Landlords Do A Criminal Background Check?

According to a 26 Renting Statistics study published on SmartMove:

  • 44 percent of landlords will not overlook relevant felony history
  • 56% of landlords believe that if a tenant has a bad credit record, they will decline their housing application regardless of how much they like them
  • Steady income plays another significant role, with 59% of landlords believing that steady income is more important than credit history

Overall, most property managers or landlords mainly focus on three key things: eviction, criminal, and credit history.

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    Can You Be Approved For A Rental With A Misdemeanor?

    Yes, you can, but you will have to be a bit smart.

    Legally, you can be allowed to clear your criminal record through record expungement or record sealing. This allows you to make your felony records invisible to landlords and other relevant parties.

    What about if you are ineligible to legally clear your criminal records? Is there anything you can do?

    Yes, there is, and that takes us to our next topic of discussion, ‘how to rent an apartment with a felony record.’

    6 Ways How You Can Rent With A Felony Record

    Some states don’t allow expungement of criminal records at all, or for your case, you’re not eligible in your state. Since expungement, in this case, is not an option, you can, therefore, opt for these options:

    1. Income Ratios

    Many apartments nowadays have adopted ‘prepaid’ form payments. Apartment properties or landlords can ask you to pay rent of a property that is 3 times your monthly rent. They do this mostly to ensure you are a viable tenant or for you to be considered one. 

    A percentage of these payments is considered a security deposit, while the other percentage covers your rent for up to 2 months. And so, it is advisable to do research on this to ensure you are doing it right.

    2. Look For Properties With No Background Check

    This option is one that I will advise you to start with first before opting for the other ones. This is simply because if you can’t subject yourself to a background check, then it means you highly likely get an apartment.

    Realistically, not all apartment properties or landlords run a background check of their new tenants. For them, you are considered a viable tenant as long as you have a good credit score and a solid work history. 

    3. Provide Security Deposits

    Asking for larger security deposits isn’t only a practice most apartment properties or landlords use against felonies alone. This option mainly protects landlords against people with poor credit scores and bad eviction history as well.

    However, don’t provide security deposits right off the bat, instead use it as a show of good faith when they seem resistant. Therefore, this gesture will act as collateral, which in turn gives them a reason to grant you the approval.

    4. Work With A ReentryPprogram

    This option is ideally the best one since it can help you rent a property, get a job, and many more. And so, if you can find reentry program resources in your state or that are near, you will be better off. 

    Generally, the reentry program helps ex-felonies reintegrate themself back into society.

    5. Provide Your Rental History

    Another option that can help you convince your potential landlord is by providing your rental history. This is an ideal step to do, particularly when you hold an excellent rental history with previous landlords and roommates.

    The move makes you’re a better candidate despite holding a felony record.

    6. Be Honest

    Honesty is the best policy, so they say!

    Being honest is the first way to win your potential landlord’s trust. You can easily get rejected or immediately booted if you happen to lie on your housing application. Additionally, it is almost impossible to hide the most relevant details because of the internet and social media. 

    One simple Google search may give your potential landlord your hidden criminal record, which may lead to your application being rejected. Coming out clean on your application enables your potential landlord or apartment property manager to give you the benefit of the doubt. 

    Can You Be Rejected For Misdemeanors?

    As noted earlier, there are no concrete laws that actually define this situation. However, “If a record involves property damage, for example, a landlord might be within their legal right to decline an application, on the basis that it indicates a potential problem in the future,” according to The Verge

    The Supreme Court has extended federal law boundaries to help clarify decisions revolving around this topic in a major 5–4 decision in 2015. Ideally, it is crucial that you be aware of landlord-tenant laws & rights to help you avoid issues with your landlords.

    Bottom line: 

    Criminal records impact both new potential tenants and existing tenants. For example, new criminal convictions can make a landlord or property manager evict an existing tenant. 

    Also, be aware that public housing and private rentals may operate differently when it comes to reviewing housing applications. Generally, private landlords or property apartments have more leeway than public housing when it comes to screening potential tenants. However, state law may still limit property managers’ or landlords’ actions despite this disparity.