First, we’ll need to confront a few unpleasant facts: each year in the U.S. 12 million crimes are committed, and approximately 5 million adults are currently on probation or parole. There are also those who committed crimes and were never charged, or who eluded conviction owing to flaws or errors in the legal system. Inevitably someone in these categories will apply to rent an apartment from you. Another rather unavoidable fact is that while some will indicate their criminal past, many others will choose not to do so. Because of this you will need to conduct a Tenant Background Check before renting an apartment to anyone.
It is safe to assume that most potential tenants will have some flaws—a bad check here or there, a dispute with a landlord, some financial problems. Naturally the gravest of all faults may be a criminal past, and your first instinct might be to reject any applicant with any blemishes on his or her record, including one with any arrests. However, this does bear examining a bit more closely. In an arrest, were the charges eventually dropped? When did the crime take place and what were the circumstances of the case? Is the applicant a habitual offender? For example, take the case of a drug offender as a young adult, who has since completed a recovery program and is drug free, and has been so for ten years, with a steady job, and a recommendation from a sponsor, and is very up-front about his past. Perhaps that applicant might be better suited than one who has committed no crimes, but whose references are questionable.
Another difficult category to be considered is for those listed in the national sexual offender database. Again it is prudent to ascertain all the details, as registries in many states often do not list any of the details pertaining to the offense. When in doubt on how to proceed in this area, we recommend that you consult with your lawyer.
Many past criminals have received excellent rehabilitative care and their rates of recidivism are quite low, whereas others have not been able to receive adequate care. Thus make sure that a Criminal Record Check provides a detailed history of the applicant’s criminal past and all courses of treatment that have been taken to ensure that no relapses occur. Another factor to consider is that if you declare that you’re willing to give the applicant a chance, in the long run such a tenant might be most grateful to you for giving him or her this opportunity, leading to a very agreeable tenant-landlord relationship. In the end, assessing an applicant’s worthiness to reside in one of your rental units who has a criminal background may prove to be your most difficult task.