The practice of conducting criminal background checks on potential tenants has escalated over the years. This may have been precipitated by the advent of a security-conscious business community and also the ease with which public records are now available. In the past, apartment managers had to contact the courts to access criminal background information on a tenant. This in itself was a deterrent because it took time, and effort. Today, the Internet has made this extremely easy. One click of the mouse can access lots of information regarding a potential tenant.
Why conduct checks?
There are various reasons why apartments require criminal background information. One of them is obviously safety. Leasing managers fear that if criminal elements gain a foothold within the apartment community, they will attract police activity within the complex which in turn alarms and unsettles the rest of the tenants.
Another reason is that they want to prevent their rental rates from dropping. Crime and constant police activity within a community drives property values down and hence rental charges. This can cause apartments to begin to lose money especially if most of the tenants decline to renew their lease agreements.
Finally, apartments conduct criminal background check because they want to be fair to every tenant. By making it a policy and a practice of running checks on everyone, they remain in compliant with the housing laws.
Can you still rent with a felony or a misdemeanor?
The answer to this question is-it depends. Different apartments have different criteria for approving tenants. Most run criminal background checks. Misdemeanors, especially those involving traffic, are ignored. Those that are more serious, for instance those involving sex, drugs and violence can raise eyebrows and some apartments can actually deny you approval because of that. If you have any misdemeanor convictions involving sex, drugs or violence then you need to disclose this information in the application. Failure to do this can cause denial because it is deemed as falsifying an application. In some instances, if you disclose this information ahead of time and also prove that you have not been involved in any similar incidences in the last 5 years, you can be approved.
If you have a felony, things can get a little tricky. Many apartment complexes routinely deny approval to potential tenants with felony convictions and if those convictions involves sex, drugs or violence, then the denial can be almost guaranteed. The best way out of this is, again, to be truthful upfront. You can also write a letter to the management explaining what happened. If you have a recommendation from someone else this can also lend strength to your appeal for approval.
If all else doesn’t work then it may be time to see whether you qualify for an criminal record expungement depending on the state you live in.
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