Apartment Living BlogApartment Tips › Renting an Apartment After a Felony Conviction

Although we do not provide legal advice, we strive to give the best responses to the questions and concerns expressed on our site.  Discrimination that includes race, ethnicity, religion, family status, and disability are, in fact, illegal. In some states discrimination also includes gender and sexual orientation. However,  felony convictions are not included. No matter how long ago your conviction may have been the landlord holds the right to deny you housing based on your past convictions. Not renting to a person with a felony is a rental standard designed to minimize the landlord’s liability risk. But it is important to note that all landlords may not feel this way. Chances may be in your favor if you apply for a rental property and the landlord or property manager can see that you are not the person that your record may say you are. Here are a few ideas to consider to improve your personal rental profile:

  1. Consider Who You Are First

One of the most important factors to consider when trying to rent an apartment after a felony conviction is your character. Property owners and managers have the responsibility of choosing applicants that would complete their tenancy without any defects in their lease.  Because a person cannot judge, read or know your history just by an introduction they must resort to background checks, credit scores, income, and references. Here is a list of what property owners and managers do not want:

  1. Someone who pays rent late especially on more than a few occasions
  2. Someone who violates the terms of the lease
  3. Someone who does not fix the issue on a defected term on the lease
  4. Someone who is secretly doing illegal activity on the property
  5. Someone who damages the property
  6. Someone who will cause worry, harm or distress to other tenants, management or 3rd party workers

It’s true; the applicant could be accepted as a resident and still run into issues with their lease. So you can imagine the checklist that goes through a landlord’s head when considering an applicant. With that said. We all know and understand that life happens, and people can improve their personal lives by making better choices. But how can you prove this? Your character and your work ethic can make a significant difference in how people will supply your rental needs.

  1. Request Record Be Sealed Or Expunged

Let’s define the difference between sealing a record and expunging a record.

Sealing a record means that it does still exist however the record is not publically accessible. Sealing a record can only be viewed by a court order and is not available for general review. For example, if you have a felony and your record is sealed it would not pop up on a background check. Sealed Records are commonly used for birth records, juvenile criminal records, witness protection or cases involving trade or state secrets.

Expunging a record is the complete erasure of one’s criminal record. The only people who will have access to this file are certain law enforcement agencies or courts. Expunging a record is harder to acquire than sealing a record, but both will protect you from the damage of a background check.

This option may not be available for everyone that has a felony on their record, but it is an option to consider. The first thing you would need to do is be sure your case is eligible. Ask questions and gain knowledge on what your state requires to seal or expunge your record. Some states will require a particular application to start the process. You will also need to have several copies of your criminal record. These copies would be used for requirements for the state or for whatever instances you may come across that require a copy of your criminal record. Lastly, be timely in your processing and keep all of your paperwork together. Take names and numbers of people that were involved in your process so that if you have questions or run into any issues, they can be easily reached. Submit any fees and all necessary paperwork to get this process done seamlessly and efficiently.

  1. Research Properties That Rent To Felons Or Do Not Have A Background Check

It would make your move a lot smoother if you acquired a starting lineup of places that do not require a background check. This option would be ideal for those that are on a fast-approaching deadline in the acquisition of a residence. Start with an in-depth online search, take name and number of the properties given, ask the necessary questions that will strengthen the prospective relationship between you and your new possible landlord and always be positive. Don’t just look at this option as a local answer. If 50 miles out is a landlord that is willing to work with your situation than I would suggest being flexible and ready. It may not be around the corner, but at least you are on the right path to acquiring a place to live.

  1. Move To A Private Residence

By now I am sure you can see how property management companies have a strict way of working with potential tenants.  When considering renting from a private residence or rent by owner you may be able to have a more personal and honest conversation that won’t do much damage.  Some private residences may not require a background check or a particular credit score to rent from them. They may even have a rent to own program that is available to you once you establish a successful rental relationship.

  1. Request Character References From Rehab Facility, Family Or Employer

A character reference is an excellent addition to your application. Along with your reference writing this letter for you, it is critical that in return you fill them in on the potential landlords that may contact them for verification. The character reference should state:

  • The reason for writing the reference
  • The relationship between you and the person writing the reference and how long you have known them
  • Detailed information on your character (ex. personality, abilities, strengths)
  • Contact Information

Choose people that can speak to the best moments in your life like times when you were trustworthy, responsible and consistent.  You would want to choose people who feel secure about where you are and where you are going so that that positive energy can transfer to the landlord. If you were in a rehab facility, have a close family member, a close friend or an employer this reference would be an excellent way to support your application. It shows you are serious about moving forward and are willing to do what it takes to make your new dwelling a success.

  1. Be Honest And Forthcoming Wth What You Have Learned

Whether you have served a sentence or are paying fines, it is best to be honest and confident about what you have learned. Explaining the situation is probably only necessary if you are asked so refrain from the small details. The idea behind this is for you to become your own character reference. Attest to yourself. Be your own champion.

  1. Use Your Resources

Property Agents and individuals that work in the housing industry are responsible for getting housing for those that qualify. Using your resources and spreading the word about what you need get you a place faster than you think. It’s important to remember to be patient and persistent in this strategy. The more people you speak to the better. Let them know the different measures you have taken to be considered as a serious applicant. Like improving your credit score, working 2 – 3 jobs, or acquiring your character references.

8.Search For Community Groups That Assist Felons

There are several reentry groups and felony friendly organizations that assist in helping those with unfortunate charges get back on their feet. Whether its finding employment, finding housing or getting your GED there are organizations nationwide that can point you in the right direction. My suggestion is to create a list of these organizations and to reach out one by one. Again, you would want to ask the necessary questions to cater to your particular circumstance.

  1. Support Local Non-Profits

Giving your time and energy as a resource to local non-profits looks great on any application. Volunteering for non-profits speaks to your willingness to offer critical services as a partner and participant in society. Find a few hours along your week to dedicate to a local non-profit. As with any endeavor, you should be dedicated to offering your services and open to the positive changes that it has to offer.

  1. Reentry Programs

Reentry programs should be available statewide and readily available to those that need them. They cover several topics and have tons of resources that can help. You should be able to find help in these different fields:

  • Employment
  • Social Skills
  • Technology and Computer Training
  • Financial Literacy
  • Housing
  • Counseling and Mentoring
  • Education
  • Health and Mental Care
  • Life Skills
  1. Information: Books, Websites, and the News

Do not underestimate the power of gaining your own understanding from other resources. Information is constantly changing and no matter what It is always best to stay ahead of the curve on the latest news. Felonies are just bad decisions that you made in the past it does not have to hold you back from being the best form of yourself in the future.

The above suggestions may not specifically cater to everyone’s circumstance, but it’s an excellent start to finding a successful landlord that will consider your needs and hopefully supply them. We do acknowledge the difficult position that you may be in and commend you on moving forward. All the best in your apartment search!

About :

Pamela Rosara Jones was a Business Writer & Strategist for ForRent.com™. Pamela’s tasked with creating brand-relevant, thoughtful and personalized content that seamlessly fits the ForRent.com brand. She also focuses on ForRent.com’s omni-channels through creating and maintaining content strategies that are executed throughout the platform.


  1. Thanks Pan for such an informative blog. you describe each and every point nicely. using our resources and getting information from books,website and the news can help to great extent. if you found guilty of a misdemeanour crime, it can be difficult to find a home. No one are ready to give a space in their home to such people. but these ideas can give a way to a felony to get a rental home.
  2. Jennifer says:
    Thank you for the information. I never knew that having a 13 year old felony would have me on the verge of homelessness. We have the money to move but no one will look past the felony conviction and I cant find a private rental. I have completely changed my life for the better and havent been in any trouble since. My life is just ruined. And in Georgia I dont meet the requirements of expungement.
    • Jennifer, I understand that this is an unfortunate situation to be in. Keep searching for a private rental that will understand your plight. Something positive should come from it. All the best

  3. pat shields says:

    hello my son josh commited a crime in 2007 when he was 17  he is now 27 and is having trouble finding a apartment because of background where can I get help

    • Hello Pat, you may want to consider a private residence or research properties in your area that cater to those with a less than perfect background check. Consider the useful options in the article for further insight.

  4. Ms. Jones, thank you for this very informative and helpful blog.  I used to work for an org whose mission was to exonerate the wrongfully convicted.  Every day I would see tons of cases of wrongful convictions and/or unfairly harsh sentences of people who were mainly guilty of not having enough money for an adequate legal defense (had to rely on court-appointed counsel) and were cheated in one way or another by the legal system.  Once convicted, finding adequate housing is often nearly impossible regardless of the person’s character, mitigating circumstances, etc.  And I saw first-hand the very real disparate impact involved; there were no rich white people having a hard time this way.   Things have to change.  God bless you for this blog!
  5. Richard adams says:
    Pam I’m a military retired army vet I have a steady income and am currently housed in an apt I’m wanting you to contact me to speak to you about housing  I’ve paid my rent on time  but the landlord here cares very little to address there roach and other matters at hand want to know if you could help me possibly seek other housing 
    Good day Ms. Jones. I want to thank you for this very important blog. It was very informative and very much appreciated. I will definitely be putting to use the information provided. Thank you again and have a blessed and wonderful weekend.
  7. Alec Green says:
    Texas specifically has a law on the books only allowing businesses to only go back as far as 10 years on background checks. Louisiana has a 7 year limit. Many companies list a time frame on applications such as 7 years or 8 years or 5 years. Whatever the case may be they are held to that date even if the law says they may check farther back.
  8. It has been 25 years for me and I still find it difficult to rent in Texas.  I have good references and now and then you can find someone to overlook the past.  I want to be able to live where I want, I’ve more then paid for that mistake I made in my early 20’s. 

    • I feel you! People should stop judging us on our past and see what we’ve done sense. 

      Keep your head up!

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