How to Screen Tenants with a Criminal Record

How to Screen Tenants with a Criminal Record

January 8, 2024 Off By Glespynorson

In the world of property management, selecting suitable renters is an essential factor that significantly impacts the well-being of your investment. A critical standard often scrutinized during tenant screening is their criminal background. Balancing the desire to give housing opportunities with the requirement to ensure the safety and security of your property can take time and effort.

Many real estate investors are astonished to hear that just as many Americans have criminal histories as they have college diplomas. In fact, over one-third of the adult working-age population has a criminal record. That means the chances of an applicant with criminal records applying to rent a home are pretty high. Years ago, a landlord could refuse to rent to a potential tenant just because they had a criminal record, but that is no longer true.

Join us as we navigate the complexities of tenant screening, empowering property owners to make sound choices that benefit their investments and the communities they serve.

Proper Way to Check Criminal History

1. Type of Conviction

Conducting the criminal history check of potential tenants with diligence and responsibility is critical. Start by acquiring the applicant’s permission to do a background check. However, choose a respected background screening agency to obtain reliable, up-to-date information. Concentrate on relevant convictions that directly impact the property’s and its occupants’ safety, such as violent crimes or property damage offenses. Homeowners should hire a competitive local property manager in Philadelphia to screen tenant applications thoroughly.

Consider the context and recency of the convictions, recognizing that individuals can rehabilitate over time. To avoid prejudice, follow fair housing regulations and set clear, consistent guidelines for reviewing criminal histories. Balancing tenant rights and property safety ensures a rigorous yet equitable screening process.

2. Facts of the Conviction

Following legal and ethical norms is critical while checking a prospective tenant’s criminal background. You can begin by acquiring explicit consent via a legally binding authorization form. Criminal records can be obtained from respected databases or county courthouses, ensuring accuracy and thoroughness. Concentrate on facts rather than assumptions, and examine the specifics of any convictions.

You should identify the nature, severity, and timelines of offenses. Remember that certain crimes may not automatically disqualify a renter and that homeowners must examine particular circumstances. However, to avoid discrimination, maintain confidentiality and follow fair housing laws. To guarantee a comprehensive yet responsible criminal history check, achieving a balance between respect for privacy and due diligence is imperative.

3. Evidence of Rehabilitation Efforts

When reviewing a tenant’s criminal history, it is critical to use a fair, comprehensive approach that considers evidence of rehabilitation efforts. Examine genuine actions taken towards personal growth and reform rather than the sheer existence of a criminal record. Consider letters of recommendation, completion of rehabilitation programs, or a persistent record of positive behavior following a felony conviction. Evaluating the sincerity of efforts to reconstruct a life might reveal valuable insights into an individual’s willingness to change.

Open communication with the applicant about their rehabilitation process promotes transparency and allows for a more comprehensive evaluation. It is critical to balance safeguarding the community and providing individuals with opportunities for redemption. By including evidence of rehabilitation efforts in your screening process, you help promote a more equitable and understanding approach to tenant selection while providing a safer and more supportive living environment.

Fair Housing Requirements for Landlords


1. Reasonable Accommodations

Landlords are obligated to make reasonable accommodations for renters with disabilities. This involves implementing changes or exceptions to rules, policies, or procedures to ensure that people with disabilities have equal chances to enjoy and use their homes.

However, these modifications, from allowing service animals to changing parking arrangements, are critical in promoting an inclusive living environment. Landlords must interact with renters to establish appropriate accommodations, recognizing the various requirements of individuals with disabilities while adhering to the principles of fairness and equal access outlined in fair housing laws.

2. Application Processes

Homeowners must guarantee that their application processes comply with fair housing laws. This entails applying uniform criteria to all applicants and consistently looking into details such as credit history, rental history, and income. Also, it is essential to avoid discriminatory practices and make decisions on valid grounds about a tenant’s ability to complete lease obligations.

Transparency is fostered by providing explicit information about the application process and standards to give all prospective tenants equal access and opportunity. Homeowners must follow Fair housing standards during the application process to maintain an inclusive and nondiscriminatory renting environment.

3. Understanding Local Laws

As a Landlord, you must exercise diligence in understanding and adhering to local fair housing rules, which may impose additional requirements in addition to federal standards. Local laws can impose other security measures and conditions, ranging from different protected classes to various anti-discrimination laws.

By being informed about these intricacies, property owners can navigate the rental landscape with complete awareness, promoting fair and equitable housing policies in their communities. Consultation with local housing authorities or legal specialists can assist landlords in staying current and in compliance with the broad array of fair housing rules relevant to their specific geographical location.

Importance of Knowing Landlord-Tenant Laws

1. Tenant Safety

Landlord-tenant laws protect tenants’ rights. These laws frequently address critical issues such as security deposits, rent increases, eviction policies, habitability standards, and privacy rights.

By being informed of these guidelines, tenants can ensure that their rights are respected and that they are not victims of unfair treatment or illegal acts. Landlords can also avoid lawsuits, fines, and penalties by understanding the local rules and regulations they must adhere to.

2. Conflict Prevention

The landlord is responsible for providing the tenant with a safe and livable environment. This implies that the rental unit cannot have any significant flaws or safety threats.

Furthermore, all appliances must work properly. The heating, plumbing, and lighting systems should all be functional. Also, no insects or pests should be present on the property.

The landlord may also specify who is responsible for which maintenance tasks in the lease agreement. Also, confirming your state’s legislation is critical because it may differ from one state to the next.

It may be easier to avoid disagreements and miscommunications between landlords and tenants if both parties know their landlord-tenant rights and duties. When all parties understand their rights and obligations, they can better communicate, address problems swiftly, and, if necessary, resolve conflicts through legal processes. A more positive and beneficial landlord-tenant relationship may result from this information.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the process of screening tenants with criminal records requires a delicate balance between risk mitigation and individual rights. Thorough background checks, specific rental requirements, and compliance with local laws are all crucial components of this process.

Landlords must examine the nature and timing of offenses to ensure fair treatment while prioritizing community safety. Open communication, transparency, and a well-defined screening process are essential for maintaining a trustworthy landlord-tenant relationship. Ultimately, by employing a thorough screening procedure, landlords may make well-informed decisions that contribute to a safe and harmonious renting environment.