How to Rent An Apartment with a Felony Conviction

Federal and state laws permit landlords and property managers to refuse to rent to people who have been convicted of a felony.  Doing research into apartment procedures for disclosing your background to landlords and property managers before submitting an application significantly improve your opportunity of finding a place to live.

Housing Discrimination and Felons

Landlords and property managers are allowed to, in accordance to state and federal law to not accept rental applications on the basis of an applicant’s felony background. Many public housing agencies also restrict rentals to people with felony records, however, some might consider your application if a lot of time has passed since your conviction. Federal law requires public housing authorities to not accept new housing applications from people who are on a lifetime sex offenders list, as well as people who were convicted of producing meth on public housing apartments.

Tenant Background Checks

Most  landlords and property managers run felony background checks on potential applicants, so it is a possibility that the landlord or property manager will find out about your criminal background. Research property management company policies online or ask a current resident before applying for an apartment. If you know that you’ll be asked to consent to a felony background check, disclose your crime before applying. If your arrest record makes you  not eligible for a lease, you will save the application fee.

Disability Exception

It’s against federal housing law to discriminate against people with disabilities. If your felony was connected to your substance abuse or a mental illness, you might be protected from housing discrimination. IE, if you were convicted for trespassing as a result of mental health issues, you may be able to invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act and prevent a landlord from turning down your rental application solely because of your criminal record. Contact a disability rights lawyer, or Legal Aid, to discuss your case and how to best work with landlords on this issue.

Other Home Search Strategies

Take additional steps to insure landlords that you will not create any problems in your new home. Get references from employers, former landlords, priest and respected congress members. Another option is asking the landlord if he will consider a co-signer on your lease. You can also expunge your criminal record. State laws vary on this process, but it may be possible to have your records sealed by the courts so that they don’t show up on felony background checks.

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