Locating rental housing while on the sex offender registry can be a difficult task. Many property managers and landlords include stipulations for registrants within their tenant criteria. In addition, some landlords turn to the information from state implementations of “Megan’s Law” to determine whether applicants are listed on the registry. It is not uncommon for landlords to solely deny a rental application because of a sexually-based crime:
“Conviction of any crime that requires lifetime registration as a sex offender or for which applicant is currently registered as a sex offender will result in denial.” – Capscott Apartments, Portland, Oregon.
“Any registered sex offenders and anyone convicted of the manufacture and distribution of drugs will be denied.” – Toonen Rental Properties, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The lack of rental housing available for persons required to register can lead to homelessness. Miami has seen its share of problems including homeless encampments under causeways and more recently just east of the Miami International Airport. The homeless situation is often seen as a forced nomadic existence, which also causes more issues for local police.
While landlord attitudes towards people with misdemeanor convictions are generally favorable versus felony records, most landlords will consider rehabilitation efforts as part of their decision making. In the study, “Landlord Attitudes Toward Renting to Released Offenders,” only 35 percent of the landlords were willing to accept a felon without rehabilitation, while 62 percent, which includes landlords who are currently accepting applicants with a criminal history, would accept them with rehabilitation. Results for misdemeanors show similar trends. When participants were asked if they would rent to someone on the sex offender registry, 85.6% of them said they would deny the application.
How to Find Housing With a Felony or Sex Offense
1. Private Landlords
Try to avoid property management companies such as Real Property Management and local apartment rental services. Most, if not all, will deny you solely on your sex offense charge. Even though people with felony records are not a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, there may be a legal challenge opportunity for prospective tenants that are denied solely on their conviction. On April 4, 2016, Urban Housing and Development (HUD) released guidance for landlords regarding criminal records and rental housing. It states that,
“Policies that exclude persons based on criminal history must be tailored to serve the housing provider’s substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest and take into consideration such factors as the type of the crime and the length of the time since conviction.”
In addition, landlords bear the burden of “proving that any discriminatory effect caused by such policy or practice is justified.” Also, such a determination must be made on a case-by-case basis.
People living with felony records or sexually-based offenses have the best chance of locating available rentals through private, or small family-owned management companies. Also, a private individual renting his/her condo, rental home, or duplex will most likely have less stringent restrictions in place for possible tenants.
2. Zillow and Craigslist
3. Good Credit and References
If you have other areas of your application that are strong, such as good credit and references, your chances of securing a rental increase. Some rental companies may look past your criminal history if you can show solid credit and positive rental history. If possible, ask your former landlords to write you a reference letter so you can have it on hand when applying for your new place. Also, if you have access to an additional deposit, this may also help your case. You can request a free credit report through this service. When reviewing your credit report, try to find any information that is inaccurate. You may be able to get these entries removed by sending a request to credit bureaus such as Equifax.
4. Tell your story with confidence
Don’t be afraid to tell your story. By explaining your past situation, it shows landlords that you have owned up to your past, and this builds trust. Most landlords will appreciate your honesty and have more respect for you. Don’t panic. You don’t have to talk about every single detail, just the basics of what happened. If this is too difficult to do face-to-face, email or write a letter to the landlord explaining the situation. Or, you can include the letter with your rental application.
5. Be early to apply
Rentals go fast. There is a lot of competition when it comes to rental homes, condos, and apartments. By being one of the first three applicants, gives you a better chance at being accepted. Not all landlords go in order of applications received, but applying early, shows your interest and motivation. For example, this Zillow rental ad has been listed for only one day and has eight contacts already:
6. Search the Registry
You can also locate potential rental housing by searching the sex offender registry. Sound crazy? It works in some cases. Depending on the location where you want to move to, you can do a local search to determine the locations of registrants. Check to see if registered addresses match any apartment complexes in your area. If they do, this could be a good sign that the complex has flexible criteria and may rent to people with felony records and sex offenses.
7. Contact nonprofit organizations
There are a handful of nonprofit organizations and ministries that help secure housing for people required to register. These nonprofits may also own rental properties themselves such as Reset Missouri and the Tall Order Foundation. You may find that some of the organizations are operated by individuals that have been formerly incarcerated. They can relate to your situation without judgment or hate.
You can also contact me, The Outspoken Consultant for assistance in located rental housing in your area. I’ve personally experienced the challenges of rental housing while living on the list.
Finding suitable housing with a felony or sex offense is difficult, but not impossible. The search can be extremely frustrating when your applications are denied. Don’t give up. Keep searching. You will find an understanding landlord. Stick to the seven tips that I’ve provided. Moving doesn’t have to be full of dread and anxiety. Also, don’t get overwhelmed in your search. By taking a break for a day or two, this gives you a renewed and fresh perspective.