Discrimination Against Prospective Tenants with a Criminal Record

by | Jul 18, 2017 | Tenant Screening

Recently there has been much discussion and confusion, about how to deal with, or not, individuals who have a criminal record when applying for rent.

Below is a link concerning…Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Transactions,


The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of dwellings and in other housing-related activities based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin.

This should be a no-brainer for Landlords who represent themselves as professionals and should know what the anti-discrimination laws are.

Discriminating against applicants with a criminal record is another issue that landlords need to be concerned about, it can mean walking a fine line. For example:

Can I reject for a misdemeanor or a does it have to be a felony?
What kind of misdemeanor or what type of felony can I reject for?

Walking a fine line means using some common sense.

Conducting due diligence to determine what kind of history the Applicant has as a tenant, is important in deciding, and may take the criminal record decisioning out of the equation.

But consider this…many Individuals with a criminal record are good tenants and good people. Sometimes their past does not define their future. This should be considered, and therefore Inquiries need to be made to determine their tenant worthiness and credit worthiness. For example:

Inquire with current and previous landlord to determine tenant worthiness.

  • Did the Applicant constantly miss rent payments or pay late?
  • Did the Applicant abide by all the terms in the lease agreement?
  • Were there any problems with the Applicant, like verbal or physical abuse?
  • Complaints from other tenants regarding illegal activity?
  • How long did the Applicant rent for?
  • What was the lease amount?
  • What was the address of the rental?
  • Would you rent to the Applicant again?

Compare the answers to these questions… to the information you received on the rental application. Was the Applicant truthful?

Obtain a consumer credit report.

  • Compare the information on the credit report to information on rent application, including Name, DOB, Address or previous address. Does it match?
  • Have all Credit Grantors reported as paid on time?
  • No Credit history? Red flag!


  • Order an eviction report and ASK the applicant. Have you ever been evicted? And state…be advised that I am going to check.

After you have completed the tenant and creditworthiness due diligence, it should become clearer as to what type of Individual you are dealing with. Based on these inquiries, you should then decide. Accept or Reject.


Speaking from a personal point of view, as a landlord, I would never reject an applicant for any reason, other than…you did not meet my criteria.

Every landlord should have a list of what that criteria is, and stick to it with every rent application:

Sufficient income/Stable employment
Proof of Income 3 x that of rent
Every intended occupant must be listed on the application and screened
No guests for longer than 7 days
No smoking
No pets
Good landlord references
Good credit history
On time rent payments
Abide by the terms of the lease agreement
Must have 2-3 months of paid utility statements that show financial responsibility.
Must have bank account that shows pay check in, rent payments out.
Must have a personality and attitude that I like…and any other criteria deemed appropriate.

If the tenant does not meet this criterion, the fact that he/she has a criminal record that you don’t want to decide on, becomes a non-issue.

Other reasons you may give to NOT PROCEED with rental application:

  • I chose another applicant. HOWEVER! You should have another Applicant, do not get caught in a lie if push comes to shove and you need to prove it.
  • I am reviewing other rent applications and will let you know if you are the successful candidate. You should have other rent applications.

In most instances… Individuals who have a criminal record and continue to lead that type of lifestyle, will not meet your criteria.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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