Authored by Douglas Mefford in Real Estate
Published on 05-27-2009
Increasingly real estate management companies that require criminal background checks on all applicants for housing run apartment complexes. The general opinion of these companies are that, once a criminal – always a criminal, and will summarily refuse you housing. Their justification is that to charge the rates they do, they must prove they are trying to keep the community safe. While there are very few ways to ever get these companies to allow you to rent from them, it can be possible depending on what you were convicted for.
The first of the two approved methods of obtaining housing after a conviction would be to seek a “deferred adjudication” from the county clerk’s office. These are sometimes given to people for misdemeanor charges or first time offenders. Usually such charges that only result in fines or “community service are eligible. You would need to have this document show the details of the charges, the court ruling and proof of the completed community service. The document should also contain the information that it is illegal to discriminate against one and that it is not grounds for denying housing.
The process of “expungement” is a bit more difficult to obtain. An “expungement” will seal the court records and prevent the occurrence from showing on your police check record. There are several requirements for eligibility which varies from state to state. This process is usually not granted until at least ten years after the conviction and is still at the approval of the state.
Most renters do not have such negative bias against a small misdemeanor charge but do look very hard on felony convictions. A felony conviction will greatly limit your choices in housing for the rest of your life regardless of the fact that you have served the time for your crime. It is a strong belief, supported by statistics, that of those who commit crimes, usually 80% will do them again once released.
If “deferred adjudication” and “expungement” of your records are disallowed, there is still some hope. Many parolees or probation officers have contacts of places where convicted individuals are still allowed housing if it seems to the court officer that they are truly attempting to put the criminal behavior behind them and build a new life. Check with them to see if they know of places that would not let a criminal record be an automatic denial.
Regardless of the type of crime committed, do not try to hide it from the renter you are applying to. Take whatever pertinent documents you have with you to show the details of the charge. Add to it a written statement of your reasons for having fallen foul of the law and include what you have done since then to prevent a recurrence. Openness and honesty about the matter can help your case.
Even if you do not have a criminal record, it is a good idea to have one run on yourself occasionally. Sometimes a person who has the same name as you will have a record that could come up on a search for your name. It may require a fingerprint record check to prevent such accidental circumstances from denying even the law-abiding a decent place to live.