Don't Let Your Past Limit Your Future

How to Rent an Apartment with a Criminal Record

August 18, 2017

As you may already know, a criminal record can make it very difficult when trying to rent a new apartment. No matter where you’re located, landlords almost always conduct a background check as part of the application process. As mentioned in a previous blog post, some cities are passing laws to prevent the discrimination of renters with a criminal record. Although, the fact remains that in most cases, having a criminal record will create serious barriers when searching for housing.

What items are part of your record?

  • Arrest Data & Criminal Investigative Data
  • 911 Calls
  • Booking photos (mug shots) & Identification Data
  • DNA Data
  • Conviction of a criminal offense
  • Traffic violations (including DWI)

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 protects seven classes: race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. Unfortunately, a person’s criminal record is not protected under the Fair Housing Act.

What can be done to qualify?

  1. Get an expungement or record seal

Sealing a record refers to making a record inaccessible to the public. Once a record is sealed, it can only be viewed by a limited number of agencies. On the other hand, expunging a record means the record is completely erased from the person’s criminal background. Depending on the state, only certain law enforcement agencies or courts can view an expunged record. Expunging a record may not be an option for everyone, but you may take our free, confidential Eligibility Test to find out.*

*Note: Expungement and record seal laws vary by state, so it’s best to consult an attorney for help. See our website for more information on the difference between an expungement and record sealing.

  1. Get references

Work references, rehab facility references, family references, previous landlord references, etc. can help a person trying to acquire a new home. Most apartment properties will look at your rental history, and some might require a rental verification from your previous landlord.

  1. Keep your previous or current rental history in mind

When trying to rent an apartment property, it is important to keep previous rental history in mind. Was rent paid on time? Does the person have a broken lease or owe money on a property? Did they have problems with other tenants in the past? All of these factors could alter the decision for a person’s approval.

  1. Income/Credit ratio

Depending on the property, a larger deposit might be needed if your credit or income is not at the required amount for approval. Add in a criminal record, and the chances are definitely lowered. Each property is different so it is best to ask the lessor what their requirements are based on income, credit and criminal background.

  1. Research properties that don’t do background checks

Work with property locators or real estate agents that can help find properties that work with people that have a criminal record. This is a great tool to use, especially if you are not familiar with the city or state you are moving to.

  1. Reentry programs or Community Groups That Assist Felons

Research groups in your community that help people with a record get back on their feet.


These are just a few things that may help in your search for new housing. If you’re thinking about renting or moving into a new property, it’s best to have a clear criminal record. However, the expungement and record sealing process can be difficult without the assistance of an attorney. For more information, it’s best to consult a law firm experienced in expunging criminal records.

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