Can a Felon Rent a House?

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Following their release from prison, felons typically find that most things are challenging.  These include finding a job as well as finding a place to live.

Much of society seems to turn its back on felons, and opportunities are not easily come by.

In looking for somewhere to live, felons do have options even though they may be limited.

This blog post will cover the issue of whether a felon can rent a house.

  • Steps in Finding Housing
  • A Landlord’s Decision
  • Making a Case for Renting a House
  • Supporting a Felon in Renting a House

Steps in Finding Housing

Finding housing to rent as a felon is challenging.  There are resources to use in beginning a housing search in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

With all of the obstacles felons face, they must be prepared to spend considerable time and energy searching for a place to live.

They must be ready and not get discouraged and give up.  It will take patience and perseverance to locate appropriate housing.

There are steps felons can take in looking for a rental house.

  • Large property management companies may have stricter guidelines on potential tenants, requiring a more extensive background check. Finding individual landlords may be a better option.
  • The best options for houses are single-occupancy houses owned by a single landlord and not ones in a high density living area operated by a property management company.
  • Make a good first impression with a possible landlord. Be serious and sincere, focusing on asking questions about the house.
  • Be honest about their conviction. Felons are already distrusted and expected to be dishonest.  It is best to tell the truth about their criminal record. They should be sure to stick to the facts of their felony as they would be discovered on a background check.
  • They must be prepared to answer questions a potential landlord may have, especially ones relating to their plans to live an honest life.
  • When seeking houses to rent, ask persons in authority such as lawyers and parole officers. They may be in a position to know about a vacancy as they deal with felons daily.  If they aren’t aware of any possibilities, they may be able to refer them to someone like an agency that could provide assistance.
  • Be willing to ask family or friends if they know of anything. If they have a good relationship with their landlord, that can help.

Some landlords will turn down a felon immediately.  Felons must be ready for this and realize they are probably reacting to felons’ criminal record and not to them personally.

If a possible landlord does judge and reject them, it’s better to know that up front before paying any deposit.

A Landlord’s Decision

The federal Fair Housing Act was implemented to deal with discrimination against individuals who might be turned down for housing based on certain factors.

The Fair Housing Act has established what are termed protected classes safe from discrimination.

These groups include race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and families with children.  To deny housing to persons for being members of any of these classes is called the disparate impact doctrine.

A potential landlord can turn down a tenant for poor credit history or failure to pay rent on time.

While a landlord may not deny an applicant for being a felon, they may turn them down based on assumed traits.  That is, felons are often seen to be dishonest and dangerous.

Some landlords will not to rent a house to anyone they don’t feel comfortable with for liability and safety issues, and this is not discrimination.

The Fair Housing Act was passed because those in protected categories are there because they have no choice.  They were designated to a group because they were born into a particular race or are from a particular national origin.

For felons, however, this isn’t the case.  They weren’t born felons.  They chose their lifestyle and made the bad decisions that put them in their legal circumstances in the first place.

There are agencies that will help find rental housing for felons.  Typically, the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can assist in locating subsidized housing, including for felons.

Agencies offering assistance for those with a low income can also help in acquiring a rental house.

Some states place certain restrictions on which felonies they will not provide assistance to felons convicted of certain crimes, such as manufacture and sale of particular classes of drugs such as methamphetamines.

Those convicted of a sex offense may also not be served in some states.

Making Their Case for Renting a House

Felons must take their situation seriously and have a goal of renting a house.  No, it won’t be easy to find a house.

But there is an opportunity available to those who want it.

Doing the things that it will take to reach that goal and rent a house will be challenging, but what hasn’t been since leaving prison?

Felons need to be willing to do what it takes.  They might have to live in an apartment or other short-term housing in the beginning.

They can demonstrate their desire to live an honest life by going through a re-entry program or getting further education and training to get the knowledge and skills they need to find a job.

The Guide to Getting Employed is available to those who want that goal.  There are stories of success and tips for presenting themselves in a favorable light.

Supporting a Felon Wanting to Rent a House

For families of felons wanting to rent a house, take the time to help your loved one in their efforts to rent a house.

Support them in returning to society and finding a way to succeed and make a difference.  Don’t let them become discouraged and give up.

There are houses for rent and landlords who will take a felon as a tenant.  There is no reason why a felon can’t be that tenant.

Be there for your loved one as they work to be one of those who doesn’t return to prison within two years.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to rent a house with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

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