Nearly 20 million Americans are known to have a felony on their record.
That’s around 6% of all people living in the US. Whether they’re rehabilitated or not, or have committed a violent crime or not, their record precedes them.
Hence, it’s extremely hard to get an apartment with that kind of record holding you back. However, if you have a felony in your past, you need not lose hope.
There are ways that you can still get an apartment with a felony on your record.
How to Rent Apartments with a Felony on Your Record
Studies show that over 40% of landlords are unwilling to overlook a criminal history.
However, there are still ways that you can get past that criminal record.
Search for Individual Landlords
If you go through a private management company that sends applications to various landlords, then you won’t get very far.
These companies usually perform very thorough background checks and don’t want to tarnish their reputation. However, if you go to a private landlord that has his own business, you may find a solution.
These landlords may let you in because they need the money or the tenants. Also, landlords may get a better reading on your if you meet them face to face.
They might find something redeeming in your past or your present to consider your application.
If you go through a company or a management firm, then you’ll just be a number and a name. This won’t allow for an examination of your personal qualities or your personality.
Be Completely Honest
As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. If you have committed a felony in your past and try to hide it, it’ll be worse for you.
You will be found out eventually, and you’ll probably be evicted immediately. Hence, wiping the slate clean is probably in your best interest.
Be Familiar with State Laws
There are different laws about renting housing all over the United States and the details matter. Hence, whichever state you’re hoping to rent in, you should know the laws.
For instance, in California, a background check won’t reveal a conviction that’s more than seven years old.
However, you should still be honest about your conviction, no matter how old it is.
In many states, there is no law against discriminating against someone with a criminal record. Hence, it’s very unfair, but it’s the law.
Understand What Landlords Don’t Want to See
Empathize with your landlords once in a while. Put yourself in their shoes. They are trying to run a business and trying to maintain an apartment building.
They’re also trying to get reliable tenants that are trustworthy and will pay rent on time.
Hence, you should do everything you can to pay rent on time, agree to the terms of the lease, and improve your behavior.
The landlord will appreciate you making his or her life all the easier for it.
Impress with Your Success Record
If there’s one thing that everyone loves, it’s a redemption story. You can bring documentation that vouches for your character.
You can bring recommendation letters and references that verify that you’ve changed since your conviction. You can also bring signed letters from rehabilitation clinics that show that you’ve been rehabilitated.
This may win over a landlord since it shows that you’re trying to better yourself. The landlord may be inclined to give you a chance for the promise that you’ll at least pay on time.
These references may show that you’re a trustworthy person now and have left the old life behind for good.
Also read: How to Check My Own Rental History
Take Advantage of Community Resources
You can also take help from community organizations and rehabilitation centers.
Check out nonprofits in the area that help get felons back on their feet. They may be able to hook you up with a living quarters arrangement that suits you well.
Offer Lump Sum Rent
You can also sweeten the deal for your potential landlord by offering a lump sum of money. Paying extra on your rent or paying more on your security deposit can at least make your landlord trust you.
It will show him that you’re serious about keeping your apartment. It’ll also show the landlord that you’re willing to turn over a new leaf.
This is no guarantee that the landlord will say yes. Some landlords may be very wealthy and not care about money.
However, certain landlords will appreciate that you’re paying more for the apartment in order to keep it. Most will appreciate the extra payment in the interests of their business.
Can You Be Denied Rental Apartments Due to a Felony?
It’s illegal for you to be denied an apartment on account of your race, religion, caste, creed, or sexuality.
However, your record is another matter. If your record involves damage to property, the committing of crimes at an apartment building, etc. then you’re in trouble.
There is a legal right to deny an application if your record has a felony like that. Landlords are often very particular about who can live on their property.
If your criminal record is specific to apartments, you may be out of luck.
How to Improve Your Chances of Renting an Apartment After a Felony?
Even though convicted felons have, by definition, fewer chances of getting an apartment than normal people, they can improve it.
Here are some of the most common ways you can improve your chances of renting apartments after a felony.
Consider Your Habits and Means
The first thing to consider if you’re renting an apartment after a felony is your character.
Property owners or managers have a responsibility to choose applicants who would complete their tenancy. This would be without any defects in their lease.
A person can’t judge you by an introduction, so they have to resort to background checks, credit scores, references, etc.
You need to ask yourself if you’re the kind of person a landlord would want to rent to. You need to be someone that pays rent on time and is only late occasionally.
You also need to abide by the terms of the lease agreement. You also need to fix whatever issue is on a defected term on the lease.
You also need to be someone that abides by the law and someone that doesn’t indulge in property damage. All these things become a reason for landlords to worry about you.
The fewer of these qualities that are in you, the better your case for tenancy becomes.
Request Your Records to be Sealed/Expunged
Sealing a record means that it still exists, but the record isn’t publicly accessible.
However, expunging a record is the complete erasure of one’s criminal record. As you can imagine, the latter is much more difficult than the former.
However, you can request either to make sure that you pass a background check. Sealed records are commonly used for birth records, juvenile criminal records, witness protection, etc. They can also contain trade or state secrets.
However, expunged records are much harder to get at and are only accessible by law enforcement or by the courts.
These options may not be available for everyone that has been convicted, but they’re worth a try. First, you’ll need to ensure that your case is eligible. Ask questions about it and gain the needed knowledge.
Request References from Rehab Facility/Family/Employer
Getting character references is a good way to boost your application.
Along with references, if they write a letter for you, it’s critical that you fill them in on potential landlords. They should be ready to talk positively about you if they’re contacted for verification.
The character references that you get should either be from your professional colleagues, employers, or rehabilitation centers.
These are all places or people that can attest to your character without having any emotional attachments to you.
The character references should contain
- a reason for writing the reference
- the relationship with the person writing the reference
- detailed information on your character
- contact info
Use Resources at Your Disposal
Property agents and individuals in the housing industry are responsible for getting the best possible housing for their clients.
If you have contacts in those fields, then you should use them to spread the word about what you need.
They may be able to get you into a program that helps formerly convicted felons find the best housing. They may be able to hook you up with a landlord that they know who is willing to give you another chance.
The more people that you speak with, the more you can be sure that help will arrive in some form.
You can also let them know the different measures you’re taking in order to be considered a serious applicant.
You can let them know you’re doing community service, you’re working two jobs, or that you’re acquiring character references.
Support Non-Profits in Your Area
You can also support nonprofits in your area in order to improve your record. Knowing that you’ve helped do your part for the community is extremely helpful in your application.
It will show that you’ve gained a sense of civic duty and want to be rehabilitated.
This speaks to your willingness to change and become a functioning member of society. You can find a few hours in the week to dedicate to this service.
Even if it’s a half-hour every day or every other day, it’ll make a huge difference. It’ll show that your convictions have changed for the better.
As with any endeavor, you should try to find the area where you can do the best. You should find an area where your talents are best served at reaching the people.
Check Out Re-Entry Programs
There are several re-entry programs around the country that are readily available to those that are in need. They cover topics that pertain to specific and general cases. They even have tons of resources to help you.
You can find help in tons of fields like employment, social skills, technology and computer training, and counseling and monitoring.
There are also programs to help procure housing for yourself as well as education and health and mental care.
Using this information, you can improve your chances of renting an apartment with a felony record.
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