Can You Rent an Apartment if You Have a Felony Record?
Finding apartments that accept felons is not the easiest task. While there are laws in place stating property managers and landlords cannot exclude anyone on the grounds of race, religion, disabilities and a number of other things – that is not the case for individuals with a felony record.
Generally, it’s not personal – it’s business. Property management companies and landlords are looking to reduce their liability risk, and if a tenant goes back to jail, then they’re stuck without rent. But excluding tenants with a felony conviction is not universal, either. Some landlords and companies are more accommodating.
That said, your best course of action is to be upfront about your past. One of the key factors in deciding to accept you as a tenant is a background check – during which your conviction will certainly turn up. If you’re honest before they even get to that point, you may have a better shot. Here are a few other things you can do to improve your chances.
Let the real you shine
You’re more than your felony conviction, so make sure those with the power to grant you a lease see that. While your landlord could end up being your friend, this is a business relationship, first and foremost. What they want is a tenant who pays on time, takes care of the apartment, doesn’t bother neighbors and obeys the law.
Meeting face to face will allow those in decision-making positions to get a sense of who you are. Dress well, be polite, bring references from your boss, colleagues and any other upstanding members of your community willing to go on record regarding your character. Think clergy, counselors from prison or rehab, family members or leaders at organizations for which you volunteer.
Fix your record
Expunging a criminal record means the conviction is wiped clean. Sealing it means that while the record still exists, it’s only accessible by the public in specific instances and only by court order. Neither would show up on a background check.
Sealing and expunging felony convictions is not common practice, but some cases are eligible. Speak to a legal expert to find out if yours fits the requirements and if so, begin the request process as soon as possible. This will require fees and paperwork, but if you’re successful, your felony conviction will no longer stand in the way of your desire to rent.
If your case isn’t eligible, the felony will remain on your record. The U.S. Department of Urban Housing and Development (HUD) can be a good place to start your search for apartments that accept felons. Some felons can qualify for Section 8 HUD public housing, depending on the type of felony they committed. This varies from state to state.
You can also find reentry organizations that work to help felons assimilate back into society after their release in every state. They will assist in helping felons find companies and apartments that accept and walk you through the process of applying and renting.