Doing Criminal Background Checks

Do You Have to Rent to Sex Offenders?

One issue landlords have when searching for their next qualified tenant is how to select one without being in any way discriminatory. Everyone has in his mind the “perfect tenant.” For some that might be a stable family, a retired couple, or a single professional man. Whatever your vision is, know that you cannot discriminate based on someone’s gender, age, ethnicity or a whole host of other things.

But what about someone with a criminal past? Are you obligated to rent to a sexual offender, or is that grounds for rejecting an application?

First of all, it’s essential that you find out the truth about someone’s status as a sex offender. Do a thorough criminal background check, which should include an exhaustive search through a national and/or state database of registered sex offenders.

A person who is a registered sex offender is not protected under state or federal law for that designation. You may deny housing to a person who you know is a registered sex offender. The same applies to someone with a criminal record. But consider the crime at hand, and whether the criminal past means the person is likely to be a bad tenant. Drug dealing and domestic violence are two examples of factors that would impact an applicant’s likelihood to be a good tenant or problem tenant.

Above all, if you have concerns about a prospective tenant, contact legal advice in your state to find out more about state or local regulations.

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