Searching for apartments that accept felons in Michigan isn’t easy. The majority of landlords carry out criminal background checks and many will refuse to rent to felons.
In this housing guide, we’ll suggest several resources you can use to find apartments in Michigan that rent to felons, and we’ll explain a recent change to the law in Detroit aimed at making it easier for felons to rent a home in the city.
4 Ways To Find Apartments That Accept Felons In Michigan 2023
Most large apartment complexes have strict tenant acceptance criteria, so applying for their apartment rentals is often a waste of your time and money.
Because of the felony on your record, it’s better to use a second chance apartment finder, search for private landlords, contact a reentry service, or use sex offender registry information to find approachable landlords.
1. Use A Second Chance Apartment Finder
Second-chance apartment finders are real estate agents who help renters with background problems. Apartment finders help renters struggling with:
- Bad credit history
- Poor rental history (late payments, evictions)
- Criminal backgrounds
Because 2nd chance apartment finders are familiar with felon-friendly landlords in Michigan, they can save you a lot of time and frustration.
Search online for a 2nd chance apartment finder (your city) or look on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to find real estate agents offering this service.
2. Search For Private Landlords
Instead of dealing with the leasing manager at a corporate-owned apartment complex, you’ll have a much higher chance of finding housing programs for felons in Michigan if you approach private landlords.
Private landlords tend to have a small number of rental properties in their portfolio and deal with applicants directly. When you contact a private landlord, you’ll be able to explain your situation to the decision maker, instead of being rejected by a leasing agent following a strict policy.
Often, if you can show that you’re a responsible person able to afford the rent, you’ll get fair consideration. So where do you find these felon-friendly landlords?
You’ll need to look at rental classified ads posted on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
To see the rentals advertised on Craigslist, go to Craigslist Michigan at https://geo.craigslist.org/iso/us/mi then choose your city.
Look under the apartments and housing to rent section, and the rooms to rent, and sublets categories.
To see rental classifieds on Facebook Marketplace, log in to the Facebook app, choose Marketplace from the menu, then go to the rental section.
With both of these options, you’ll need to contact the property owner and ask about their rental application process. If a background check is mentioned, be upfront about your felony and ask if they will consider you.
3. Contact Reentry Organizations
Reentry organizations help returning citizens forge a new life. Because of their extensive local experience, reentry counselors are a great source of leads for Michigan housing for felons.
To find reentry services in Michigan:
- Contact your probation or parole officer
- Call The United Way helpline on 211 and ask for information about reentry services, housing advice, or emergency shelters.
- Use the Calvin University Reentry Resources Map
Calvin University Reentry Resources Map
This map shows every reentry resource in the state of Michigan.
To access the map go to Calvin Maps at: https://calvin.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=70f61d915bdf47dea727b8123b483bbd
Click on your county, then click “Zoom to” in the pop-up window. You’ll see lots of colored map pins. Each pin is a reentry resource. Resources may be for permanent housing, shelter accommodation, food, education, employment, legal advice, counseling, clothing, basic needs, etc.
Click on a pin to get more details. Even if the service offered isn’t housing-related, you can still call and ask if they know of any felon-friendly apartments or landlords.
4. Research The Sex Offender Registry In Michigan
Sex offenders are required to register their home address and workplace with the state sex offender’s registry. Because the registry is open to the public, you can see where sex offenders live.
If a sex offender’s address is an apartment building, you’ve got a potential housing lead. When a landlord is willing to rent to a sex offender, that’s a sign they aren’t too fussy about who they rent to.
- Access the Michigan Sex Offender Registry here: https://mspsor.com/Home/Search
- Go to the “See A Neighborhood Map” section.
- Enter a city and set the search radius to 5 miles.
- Click on each name listed. Note down their address.
- The listings run across multiple pages, so use the page selector to continue.
- Use Google or Google Maps to search each address and find those which are apartment buildings.
Once you’ve got a list of apartments ready, contact the landlord and find out if they have vacancies.
Affordable Housing For Felons In Michigan
Felons have the right to apply for low-income housing programs in Michigan. As long as you meet the income limits for your area, you’re eligible to apply for Public Housing or for the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8).
Because these are federally funded housing programs, felons with the following convictions cannot apply for housing assistance:
- Sex offenders with a lifetime registration requirement.
- Felons with a conviction for manufacturing methamphetamine in public housing.
If you meet the income limits for low-income housing in Michigan, it’s vital to apply for housing assistance right away.
The waiting lists for affordable housing programs are only open for short periods and waiting times once on the list are very long. The sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll get to the top of the list.
As a recipient of low-income housing assistance, you won’t have to spend more than 30% of your income on rent.
Check the income limits for affordable housing in each Michigan County at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il/il15/FY2015_IL_mi.pdf
Visit the Michigan State Housing Authority website to learn more: https://www.michigan.gov/mshda/
Affordable Housing Listings
Another resource you can use to search for affordable housing for felons in Michigan is the Affordable Housing website at: https://www.affordablehousing.com/
This website lists rentals that meet low-income affordability criteria. They make it easy to inquire about rentals too. Fill out your details once, then use your saved information each time you contact landlords about rentals you’re interested in.
Detroit Fair Chance Housing Ordinance
In 2019, Detroit passed a city ordinance making it easier for felons to rent a home.
(Detroit City Code Sec. 26-5-1 Fair Chance Access to Rental Housing)
Under the new rules, landlords cannot ask about a renter’s criminal background until later in the rental application process.
The Fair Chance Ordinance applies to landlords with 5 or more housing units, so this law covers all apartment buildings.
The law doesn’t stop landlords from rejecting renters with criminal records, but it does provide some safeguards.
Here’s how the process works.
- The renter requests a rental application.
- The application form cannot ask about criminal history.
- Landlord reviews the application (income, credit history, evictions, etc.)
- If the renter is eligible for an apartment, the landlord provides a conditional lease agreement.
- At this point, a landlord may investigate the renter’s criminal background.
- If a criminal background is disqualifying, the landlord must allow the renter to provide evidence of rehabilitation.
- After reviewing the evidence provided by the renter, the landlord can (a) proceed with the rental, or (b) deny the application.
- A renter faced with a rejection can file a complaint with the City of Detroit’s Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity (CIRO) Department.
- CIRO conducts an investigation.
- Landlords in violation of the Fair Chance Ordinance may face prosecution.
Under the Fair Chance Ordinance, landlords can reject a rental applicant with a criminal background if any of the following apply:
- Ineligible for public housing
- Lifetime registered sex offender
- Violent or drug-related felonies
- Felonies committed in the last 10 years
- Imprisonment in the last 5 years
- Crimes against landlords, management, employees, agents, or tenants
- Metal theft, vandalism, property damage
It’s clear from the above list that landlords can reject renters for several specific offenses, for felonies less than 10 years old, and for imprisonment in the last 5 years.
So how does the ordinance help you secure a rental in Detroit if you have a more recent conviction?
When a landlord rejects you because of your criminal background, they must allow you to provide evidence of rehabilitation, and they must consider the evidence you provide. They can’t reject it out of hand.
Evidence you can supply to support your rehabilitation includes things like:
- Letter from your employer
- Letter from parole/probation officer
- Proof of completion of community service
- Character reference from a volunteer program
Using a second chance apartment finder is the quickest way to find Housing Assistance for Ex-Felons in Michigan. Other resources you can use in your search for felon-friendly housing are reentry organizations, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Michigan’s sex offender registry.
If you qualify for affordable housing, contact your local public housing authority as soon as possible to get on the waiting list.
Charles Greg is the Co-Founder, Author, & Head Developer behind RentingtoFelons.org
With a lifelong passion for humanity.