It’s common knowledge that having a felony on your record can make it difficult for you to get a job, but did you know that most landlords also do criminal background checks as part of their rental application process?
Aside from getting a job after being released, finding a place to live is one of the biggest hurdles that a felon will face.
TransUnion’s study shows that 44% of landlords will refuse to rent to someone with a criminal record. Halfway houses are great for reintroducing former convicts into society, but you can’t stay there forever.
Some individuals may be able to rely on friends and family, but unfortunately there are plenty of those who cannot and need to find housing for themselves. That’s why we created this page which is a state-by-state listing of housing for felons.
It may seem like a prior felony is the kiss of death for housing, but it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. If you need help finding an apartment that is felon-friendly, continue reading.
- Housing for Felons
- What to Expect When Searching for Housing
- How to Find Felon-Friendly Housing
- Be Prepared to Plead Your Case
- Final Thoughts
What to Expect When You’re Searching for an Apartment With a Felony
Returning to the civilian world after a brush with the law can be a culture shock.
Here are some things you can expect to experience when looking for apartments with a felony on your record.
Background and Credit Checks
A background and credit check are standard practices for almost all rental applications. The best way to deal with a criminal background check is by being up front and honest right away.
If you’re open with your prospective landlord about your criminal record, they may appreciate that you weren’t trying to hide anything. Plus, it’ll allow you to explain your situation before they get the chance to pass judgment.
It also gives you the opportunity to feel out a potential landlord and see how they’ll react. This can save you some time and emotional energy if they make it clear up front that they won’t rent to someone with a prior.
Questions About Income
Before you can convince a landlord to look past your record, you’ll need to assure them that you will be able to pay rent.
Your landlord may require proof of employment and will be asking you about your yearly salary. This is standard practice for rental applications. If you don’t have a consistent source of income, you will automatically be denied the apartment.
A Lot of Closed Doors
Unfortunately, you have a prospective landlord for every positive interaction, and you will have five automatic application denials.
Some landlords don’t want what they see as the risk or headache of renting to someone with a felony on their record. It’s hard and makes an already awful situation feel worse, but this is the reality of looking for an apartment when you have a criminal history.
Don’t take it too personally. Keep your chin up and move on to the next place. It’s disheartening to be denied a chance, but you need to take it all in stride and know that things will look up soon enough.
How to Find Felon Friendly Apartments
Popular media may give you the perception that finding a landlord that’s willing to “look the other way” will mean living in the wrong area or that you’ll be paying way above the asking price for your apartment, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
The internet is a fantastic resource. A simple Google search of felon-friendly apartments in your area will at the very least give you an idea of where to start looking, if not a complete list of places that will rent to former felons.
Other Helpful Resources for Felons
Doing a little extra research and networking with people in your area that are in a similar situation can help you find an apartment and even put you in a place where you can advise people in the future.
Do Your Research
A little research goes a long way. But your research should not be limited to whether or not an apartment or a particular landlord is going to deny you outright a place to live. Many factors go into looking for a felon-friendly apartment, and you need to understand what you should expect.
Avoid Rental Companies
A rental company is way more likely to turn down your application than an individual landlord. With a landlord, you will have a conversation with them and explain your situation and hopefully get them to sympathize with you.
Rental companies are impersonal. They will look at your application, do your credit and criminal background check, and decide based on that. To a rental company, you are just a name on an application. It’s much easier to get a landlord to see you as an actual person.
Know Your Rights
Denying someone a place to live based on a prior felony is technically discrimination.
While most discrimination laws don’t make specifications on discrimination based on criminal record, you may still be able to argue that you are being discriminated against: if a state claims that landlords are allowed to use their discretion to refuse to rent to someone with a prior conviction that could directly impact their property (e.g., charges for property damage, etc.) that is within their right.
However, if your prior conviction is not something that could be considered a liability for the landlord, you can use that as a point towards why you would be a safe choice for a tenant.
If you feel like your rights are being unfairly infringed upon, and you’re financially able to do so, you could pursue legal action against a landlord for discrimination.
Know the Laws in Your State
The law gets a little fuzzy when it comes to renting to someone with a felony on their record. In some states, if your charges were over five years ago, they won’t show up on a criminal background check. If that’s the case in your state, you don’t have to mention your prior charges to your prospective landlords.
However, if that’s not the case in the state you live in, it’s always best to be up front.
If you mention that something may come back on your background check, the landlord may appreciate your honesty. If you don’t note your prior charges, and they find them anyway, it could end up ruining your chances of approval.
In these cases, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Be Prepared to Plead Your Case
So it’s time to talk to a landlord about your criminal past. How do you convince them to give you a chance despite the felony on your record?
It may be intimidating to be completely candid with a stranger like this, but this is your chance to advocate for yourself genuinely.
Explain the Situation
One of the top things you need to do when explaining that mark on your criminal record gives context.
- Was this a mistake you made when you were young?
- Were you a victim of circumstances?
- Are you caught in the wrong place at the wrong time?
- Was this just a minor offense that unfortunately has to be put on record?
This is your chance to make your landlord understand what the charges were for. You may even be able to garner some sympathy from the landlord. Everyone deserves the opportunity to explain themselves.
Emphasize That You’ve Changed
Next to explaining your circumstances, you need to ensure that your prospective landlords understand that your past is in the past.
Part of the reason landlords are more likely to deny applications for people who don’t pass their background checks is to consider people with a felony on their record to be a liability.
Landlords don’t want the stress or hassle of the thought that police will be investigating one of their tenants.
If your prior offense was more than five years ago, and you’ve kept a clean record since then, this will work in your favor. There’s no more extraordinary evidence of changed behavior than managing to keep your record clean.
If your felony was more recent, try to emphasize that you’ve learned from this mistake and have grown from the experience.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Whether you’re freshly out of your battle with the law, or you’ve just been turned away from so many jobs and apartments due to your criminal history, you may be feeling discouraged. Having a bit of fake confidence on your side will go a long way.
Even if you don’t fully believe that you’re in a better place in your life than you were when you committed a felony, fake it.
Having a stable job and a place to live will do wonders for your situation. Plus, the more you say that you’re in a better place, eventually, you will start to believe it.
Finding an apartment can be difficult under any circumstances, even without a felony on your record. Add that prior felony to the mix, and it can feel next to impossible.
It’s easy to lose hope when you’re constantly being denied the basic necessity of a place to live. Remember always to keep your head up, and know that there will always be other opportunities elsewhere. Things will change; you have to keep trying.
However, you don’t need to lose hope! So long as you’re doing your research and ensuring that you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a potential landlord, eventually, you will end up winning over a landlord and getting the apartment.
Now that you know what to look for, you’re ready to make a game plan and start your successful apartment search!
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How we help
This website was created by a few folks who have personally watched their loved ones struggle to get a job due to having a felony.