One of the biggest hurdles as a felon is finding a place to rent and live.Landlords who run background checks might not want to rent to someone they feel could become a nuisance to the property or area. However, this article dives deep into how you can find an apartment as a felon.
Criminal background checks are routinely performed by landlords renting apartments. If you have a felony conviction on your record, you will likely encounter difficulty finding an apartment but not impossible.
A conviction involving a crime of violence or requiring you to register as a sex offender will significantly increase your difficulties. The best approach to finding an apartment is to do some research regarding locations willing to rent to felons.
This is to avoid wasting time and application fees on locations that have strict policies against renting to people with criminal records. Also, adopt an approach of being honest about your record.
According to law, any landlord or a rental management property has the right to run a background check on a potential tenant and reject them if they have a criminal record.
It does not matter what the crime is and it doesn’t matter how old it is – you can still be denied a rental. While it certainly seems like discrimination, by law its actually not.
Once your criminal past is discovered, the chances of your application being accepted are pretty much zero. So what’s the solution?
Search for apartments in less popular areas with low cost of living and, possibly, on the outskirt of major towns and cities. Apartments in such areas attract far cheaper rents, as demand is relatively lower. Also, landlords’ demands are less since they hardly ever get tenants.
Go for apartments for rent in a duplex or a single family home. In most cases, these apartments are not handled by management firms, but by private landlords. This automatically beats down protocols.
Consider a single room or basement rentals. The low demand for these options automatically increases a felon’s chances.
Ignore rentals in huge apartment complexes. Companies mostly control these apartments, and with their strict guidelines, your chances of being accepted as a felon drops.
Carefully go through the listings and check if the required background check is stated from the onset. If clearly stated, proceeding with such an apartment is a complete waste of time.
Look beyond “Apt/Housing” categories. Search deeper in categories like “Sublets/Temporary” and “Room/Shared.”
Give Zumper.com a try. This is a little known housing search engine that has a good number of second chance apartments that don’t require a background or a credit check. When you scroll through the listings, many of them will actually state ” Felony-friendly” right in the description of the apartment.
Your best bet is to look for housing on Craigslist.com. Unlike other big apartment search engines, Craigslist has the largest selection of properties that are being rented out by individual landlords, NOT property management or real estate companies.
You can search for “no credit check apartments” near you, and put in minimum and maximum cost for a rental that you can afford.
Getting in touch with a small-time landlord who is looking to rent out an apartment or two, is your biggest chance at landing an apartment.
Another place to search for an apartment or a room is Zillow’s Community Pillar Program. This popular search engine created a special program to help struggling individuals get in touch with landlords who are willing to relax their standards and criteria in order to give people a second chance.
How To Convince The Landlord To Accept You As A Tenant
Before you start setting up appointments to see various apartments, you have to understand the mindset of a landlord.
What are they looking for in a tenant? What are they worried about and want to avoid?
Here are some common things all landlords want:
Regular monthly payments – full rental amount
Security of knowing that a tenant has a steady job or source of income
Keeping the place neat – no major expensive damages, repairs, etc
A quiet tenant that stays out of trouble with the neighbors – no violence, drugs, police, etc
Knowing this will help you talk to landlords in the right way, that will convince them to give you a chance.
Here are the steps you should follow when convincing your landlord:
So having money is the Number 1 priority. If you have a job, it may be a good idea to save up for some time and offer the landlord to pay for a few months of rent up front. Often, this is very much welcome, since many landlords really need the cash. This alone, can convince him to sign the lease with you.
Most likely, you are struggling with bad credit and this also hurts your chances of finding suitable housing. While this is a long term goal, working to rebuild your credit will ultimately improve your chances of renting a decent apartment.
Show up to the interview in clean clothing, be polite and answer all their questions in detail. They have to assess your trustworthiness and character.
If you get lucky, the landlord may not ask about your past, criminal record, etc. In this case, there is no need to disclose anything. However, if the landlord starts asking questions about your background, its important to be honest. Lying will not help, since he will most likely want to run a background check anyways.
It is a good idea to bring a couple of references with you: people that can vouch for you being a decent person who will not cause trouble. This can be a reference from a job, family member or friend.
Can Volunteering Help You Rent an Apartment?
If you don’t currently have a job or are only working part time, we strongly suggest starting to volunteer. This does not have to take up a lot of your time. There are many none-profits, community organizations and churches that are always looking for extra people to help out.
How Can This Benefit You?
First, you can start meeting a lot of people that you wouldn’t otherwise meet. Personal connections go a long way – perhaps someone will have a friend who is renting a room or an apartment and will be able to put in a good word for you. A landlord always prefers to rent to a tenant that comes from a personal connection than from the street.
Second, you will be able to get great references to show to a landlord. Helping others will speak volumes about your character and commitment to leading an honest life.
Can A Felon Get Federal Housing/Section 8?
Depending on the nature of your crime, you may also qualify for Section 8, or other types of Federal Housing. However, there are some felonies that disqualify you from applying:
Assault / violent crimes
Certain types of fraud
If as a felon your crime falls into any of these categories, don’t waste your time applying to public housing, you will be rejected.
On the other hand, if you think you may qualify, you should definitely apply for Section 8. Go to your local Housing Authority to get an application. Fill it out with all supporting documents and get on the waiting list.
Keep in mind, that rules and regulations will differ depending on the state you live in. Some Housing Authorities reject people with felonies, regardless of the crime. Others require that a certain number of years has passed since the applicant has been released from jail.
Moreover, its important to realize that most public housing has way more applicants than spots. It may take 6 months to 2 years before your turn on the waiting list comes up. So while its a good solution to consider long term, it will not solve your immediate problem of where to live.
Lastly, once you get your Section 8 voucher, you may not be able to rent just any place you like. Most landlords that rent Section 8 apartments, still run a background check, and they have the right to deny you based on your criminal conviction.
Will An Eviction Hurt Your Chances Of Finding A Home?
Many ex cons who are struggling to find housing or need help paying rent have a history of being evicted at least once. This can be a huge stumbling block for getting an apartment in the future.
This is because a potential landlord can easily find out about your eviction by running a credit check and seeing that you owe money to the previous landlord.
However, the good news is that there is a way to fix this problem, so a previous eviction will not hurt your chances of renting an apartment.
Here is what you should do:
Contact the previous landlord and set up a payment plan to pay back any money you still owe for back rent.
If you have damaged the property in any way, offer to pay for the repairs. If you are short on cash, you can apply for felon-friendly credit cards that will give you a cash advance. Be careful, as the pay back rates on these cards are very high!
Once you pay everything, ask the landlord to remove the eviction from your credit report.
Also, be sure to ask for a good reference from the previous landlord to show that you are a responsible person who takes care of his mistakes.
If you are a convicted felon currently looking for a home, this guide will point you to the right places to look for an apartment, and teach you how to maximize your chances of convincing a landlord to give you a chance.
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