Can a felon rent an apartment? While there’s no law that says you can’t rent an apartment, many landlords won’t rent to people with a felony or other criminal background.
Can felons rent houses? If you think that sounds like discrimination, you’re right, it is. But because felons aren’t a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, landlords can legally turn you away.
The same is true if you’re looking for an apartment with your non-felon spouse, partner, or roommate. Everyone who will live at the apartment has to be named on the lease, and if the landlord runs a background check, your offense will pop up if it’s within the lookback period.
The widespread use of rental background checks makes it harder for ex-felons to find an apartment rental, but thankfully it’s not impossible, and there are even people who will do the searching for you.
How Can A Felon Rent An Apartment in 2023?
The easiest way to find an apartment to rent is by using a second-chance apartment locator. Second-chance apartment locators work with renters who have bad credit, poor rental history, evictions, and criminal records.
Because apartment locators know the local rental market, they can give you a shortlist of apartments that will approve your rental application even though you’ve got a felony on your record.
Some apartment locators charge a fee to use their service, while other services are free to use because they receive a finder’s fee from the landlord.
Apartment locators regularly find apartments and rental houses for ex-offenders, so working with one is your best option.
Finding a Second Chance Apartment Locator
If you’re in a large city, you won’t have any trouble finding an apartment locator to work with, and a quick Google search for “second chance apartment locator” will give you multiple options.
Just make sure you check the work with felons because some only handle bad credit and evictions.
If you’re not in a large city, you might not find a dedicated second chance agency. If that’s the case, start contacting real estate agents in your area. Real estate agents handle rentals as well as sales, and they’ll access rental databases and contact landlords for you.
Interesting Read: Apartments that takes Eviction.
How To Rent An Apartment With A Felony On Your Record
If you can’t find an apartment locator in your area, there are steps you should take to make your apartment search successful.
- Check your background report and credit report
- Look for independent landlords
- Supply character references
- Offer more money
- Show bank statements or paystubs
- Provide a written statement about your situation
Get A Copy Of Your Background Report
Run a rental background check on yourself to see what comes up on your report and to check for mistakes. Mistakes on background reports are common, so check for errors and ask the reporting agencies to correct their records if you find problems with your data.
Can a felon rent an apartment without undergoing a background check? Most landlords will run a background check, but it’s possible to find no background check apartments. Using the no application fee filter on Craigslist is one way to look for those types of rentals.
Clean Up Your Credit Report
With a felony counting against you, you need the rest of your background report to look as good as possible. Landlords pay close attention to background check credit reports to make sure you can afford the rent.
Get a free copy of your credit report by going to https://www.transunion.com/annual-credit-report.
If you’ve got missed payments on your report, do what you can to bring your payments up to date.
Look For Independent Landlords
The majority of apartments listed on websites like Rent.com and Zillow are in large apartment complexes where the rentals are handled by property management companies.
When you put in a rental application, the apartment leasing office has to follow the strict tenant screening guidelines they’ve been given. As soon as your rental background check reports your felony, your application is denied and you lose your application fee.
With a felony on your record, it makes little sense to apply for those types of apartments. Searching for independent landlords is a much better option. Independent landlords own smaller apartment buildings, and they’re more likely to give you a chance as long as you can pay the rent.
Most landlords will still want to run a background check, though, so you need to be honest about your past when you’re asked about felony offenses or misdemeanors.
While a landlord may be prepared to overlook your felony, they’re unlikely to want to deal with someone who has been dishonest with them.
The best places to find independent landlords are Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Unfortunately, the apartment listings won’t specify if they accept felons, you’ll need to message landlords to find out about their qualification requirements.
On Craigslist, you can select the filter option for apartments that don’t charge an application fee, which is a good way to narrow the selection. No application fee usually (but not always) means no background check.
Reddit.com and City-Data.com are two other options that may provide good leads on felony-friendly apartments. Post a message on the relevant forum section for your city and specify that you’re looking for an apartment to rent that accepts felons.
You’ll get knowledgeable suggestions from other users and this is a quick way to get some leads.
Supply Character References
Make it easier for a landlord to say yes to your application. Landlords are wary about renting to felons because of concerns about criminal activity taking place on their property, the safety of their other tenants, and the reputation of their building. They’ll also worry that you’re dishonest and won’t pay the rent.
You can ease those concerns by providing character references from your employer, probation/parole officer, course tutor, volunteer coordinator, former landlords, and your community or faith leader.
If you can show that you’re rehabilitated, a landlord will feel a lot more comfortable about you.
Offer More Money
Offering a larger security deposit is another way to show that you’re going to be a responsible tenant. Don’t offer more money right away, but if the landlord is hesitant or if they turn you down, offer a higher deposit to offset their risk.
Landlords may also decide to rent to you if you can pay several months’ rent in advance.
When you’ve put more money into the deal, the landlord has some assurance that you’ll be a good tenant, and if you’re not, they know they’ll have money in hand to cover property damage or eviction fees.
Prove Your Income
To reassure landlords you can afford the rent, download copies of your last 3 bank statements showing your income and outgoings, or show them your pay stubs.
Landlords usually expect your income to be 3 times the monthly rent.
How can a felon rent an apartment with a low income? Contact your local public housing authority to find out about low-income housing and Section 8 housing vouchers.
Prepare A Written Statement To Give To The Landlord
It’s not easy to advocate for yourself, especially if you’re feeling nervous. Having a written statement ready to hand to a landlord allows you to make a case for yourself without forgetting important information or getting tongue-tied.
Be honest about your offense. Acknowledge that you made a big mistake which is now in your past. Detail how you’ve turned your life around by holding down a steady job or getting new education and skills. Emphasize that you want a quiet life from now on and that you aim to be a model tenant.
If your felony is the only offense on your record and you’re not a repeat offender, a landlord will often give you a chance.
Get Help Renting An Apartment From Re-Entry Organizations
Re-entry organizations are a vital resource for ex-offenders and their support workers will show you how to rent an apartment with a felony on your record. As well as providing housing advice, re-entry services will help you find employment, and access education and skills training.
Your support worker may be able to refer you to rent guarantee services that operate in your area. With a guarantee in place, the landlord’s risk is lowered because they know they’ll receive the rent every month, and any property damage and eviction costs will be covered.
Search online for “re-entry services”, followed by your town, city, or state. Check through the websites before you call or email because some re-entry programs are targeted towards people with drug and alcohol addiction rather than ex-offender re-entry.
Another way to find re-entry resources is to check your state list at The Lionheart Foundation. Go to https://lionheart.org/lionheart-programs/houses-of-healing/reentry-programs and choose your state from the list.
Approach Nonprofit Housing Providers
Housing nonprofits provide housing for low-income families, homeless people, and people who don’t qualify for regular rentals.
Can a felon rent an apartment from a housing nonprofit? Well, they don’t rent to everyone with a criminal background, but you’re more likely to get an individual assessment and fair consideration from a housing nonprofit.
Again, use your search engine to search for “nonprofit housing” followed by your town, city, or state. Or, enable location detection in your browser and search for “nonprofit housing near me”.
Above All Be Persistent
Finding an apartment to rent with a felony on your record isn’t easy, but as long as you keep searching and cast a wide net, you’ll find a landlord willing to rent to you.
Start your search by contacting a second-chance apartment locator or real estate agent. They’ll ask about your offense and tell you right away if they can help you.
If you can’t find a professional to search on your behalf, check Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist several times a day and send messages for every listing in your price range.
When you view an apartment, do everything you can to create a good first impression. Dress nicely, shake hands, smile, be polite and honest, and have your references and proof of income ready.
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Charles Greg is the Co-Founder, Author, & Head Developer behind RentingtoFelons.org
With a lifelong passion for humanity.