How to Rent With a Criminal Background

How to Rent With a Criminal Background

Finding a place to live can be challenging, especially if you have a criminal background. Many landlords conduct background checks to ensure the safety and security of their property and other tenants. However, having a criminal record does not mean that finding a rental property is impossible. By following the right steps and being prepared, you can increase your chances of successfully renting a home. Here are some tips to help you navigate the rental process with a criminal background.

1. Be honest about your past:
Honesty is crucial when dealing with potential landlords. Be upfront about your criminal background, explaining the circumstances and any steps you have taken to rehabilitate yourself. Transparency can build trust and show that you are taking responsibility for your past actions.

2. Gather references:
Obtain character references from employers, previous landlords, or community leaders who can vouch for your reliability and positive behavior. These references can help counterbalance any concerns that landlords may have about your criminal background.

3. Explain your rehabilitation efforts:
Provide evidence of your rehabilitation efforts, such as completion certificates for educational programs, vocational training, or counseling sessions. Showing that you are actively working on improving yourself can help alleviate concerns about your criminal history.

4. Offer a larger security deposit:
Consider offering a larger security deposit to reassure landlords about potential risks. A higher deposit can provide landlords with a sense of security and compensate for any perceived risks associated with your criminal background.

5. Seek assistance from organizations:
There are organizations that specialize in helping individuals with criminal backgrounds find housing. Reach out to these organizations for guidance and support. They may have resources, programs, or connections to landlords who are more open to renting to individuals with criminal histories.

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6. Look for private landlords:
Private landlords may be more willing to consider applicants with criminal backgrounds compared to larger property management companies. These landlords often have more flexibility in their decision-making process and may be more open to discussing your situation.

7. Find a roommate or co-signer:
Consider finding a roommate or co-signer who does not have a criminal background. Having someone with a clean record vouch for you can increase your chances of being approved for a rental property.


1. Can landlords deny my rental application solely based on my criminal background?
While landlords have the right to consider criminal backgrounds during the application process, they cannot deny your application solely based on your criminal history. They must also consider other factors such as your income, rental history, and references.

2. How far back do landlords typically look into a criminal background check?
The timeframe for criminal background checks can vary. Some landlords may only look at the past seven years, while others may consider a longer period. However, certain types of convictions, such as sex offenses or violent crimes, may always be taken into account.

3. Can I expunge my criminal record to improve my chances of renting?
Expungement laws vary by jurisdiction, and not all convictions are eligible for expungement. Consult with a lawyer to determine if you qualify and to guide you through the expungement process.

4. Is it legal for landlords to ask about my criminal history?
Yes, landlords are legally allowed to inquire about your criminal history during the application process. However, some states have limitations on what information landlords can consider, particularly regarding arrests that did not result in a conviction.

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5. Should I disclose my criminal background before or after submitting an application?
It is generally recommended to disclose your criminal background upfront to avoid wasting time and money on applications that may be rejected due to your history. By being transparent from the beginning, you can have an open conversation about your circumstances.

6. Can I negotiate the terms of my lease due to my criminal background?
Negotiating lease terms may be possible, especially if you have a strong rental history and positive references. Discuss any concerns with the landlord and propose alternatives, such as a shorter lease term or an increased security deposit.

7. What can I do if I am repeatedly denied housing due to my criminal background?
If you believe you are being unfairly discriminated against due to your criminal background, you can file a complaint with your local fair housing agency or seek legal assistance to explore your options.

Renting with a criminal background may require extra effort and patience, but it is not impossible. By being honest, proactive, and seeking assistance when needed, you can increase your chances of finding a suitable rental property and moving forward with your life.