February 19, 2023

Should You Rent Your Property to People with a Felony Record?

A debate tries to answer the question of whether landlords should rent their properties to folks with a felony record. Landlords and property managers have mixed opinions regarding this matter. 

Some would say that former felons should be given a chance for better housing like ordinary citizens unless their crime is a sexual offense. They reason that recidivism rates decrease if we don’t subject former felons to discrimination when they’re looking for housing. However, other people are opposed to the relaxation of the no-felony-ever lease clause. 

Now, let’s explore the frequently asked questions regarding this issue and find their answers. 

Is the Lease Clause in Question Obsolete?

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released guidelines in 2016 to ease the no-felony-ever lease clause. 

The decision is based on a study from the University of Minnesota saying that someone with a felony record who doesn't commit another crime for seven years after being released from prison has the same risk as an individual who has never committed a felony before.

The HUD guidelines of 2016 basically made the no-felony-ever clause obsolete. Landlords and property managers should give a chance to former felons who haven’t committed a crime in seven years. 

Landlords and property managers can’t change the criteria longer than that timeframe. If so, they need some evidence that supports their criteria. Still, it doesn't mean that landlords and property managers can’t refuse rent to persons with a felony record. 

Why Landlords Shouldn’t Rent to Lifetime Sex Offenders?

Many studies suggest that lifetime sex offenders are difficult to reform for a sex offense. Thus, landlords and property managers should avoid renting to registered sex offenders. 

A judge will determine a sex offender’s risk level after a court hearing, and the individual must be registered upon release to the community. Three risk levels are attributed to sex offenders: level 1 (low risk of repeat offense), level 2 (moderate risk of repeat offense), and level 3 (high risk of repeat offense). 

The judge should also determine whether a person is a predicate sex offender, a sexually violent offender, or a sexual predator. 

Is Seven Years in Society without Committing a Crime Enough?

What’s enough will be based on the behavior of the felon upon his release to the community. The HUD policy says that seven years after getting back to society without committing another crime is sufficient proof that the person is living or wants to live a normal life. And, again, there are studies to back up this timeframe. 

Some people might be surprised at how many former felons are living in public housing. This is a benefit of giving a chance to former felons who want to live normal lives in society. 

How to Screen Tenants without Violating the HUD Policy?

Rental property owners renting four or more units are exempt from the legal consequences of the HUD policy. You don’t need to worry about being sued by deciding what types of people you can allow renting your property if you’re thinking of the safety of your other tenants. 

You can seek help from a lawyer regarding housing discrimination and what’s the best thing you can do in this matter. When you have a multi-family apartment, you should be concerned about the safety or comfort of families with children. This way, you can create a screening policy that makes sense for your property and the folks living in it. 

For example, when considering renting to felons, you can decide based on the type of offense committed and the years they’re in society after serving imprisonment. Make sure to craft your written guidelines for rental screenings with their date. This way, you’ll have proof that it’s your house policy if ever a rental applicant will try to challenge your refusal. 

Is It a Form of Discrimination to Refuse Rent to Felons?

It’s a form of illegal discrimination to refuse rent to people based on religion, race, and family status. However, if you don’t want to accept a rental application based on a criminal record, it’s called legal discrimination. It means the basis of your refusal isn’t illegal because you’re considering the safety of your rental property and its residents. 

Still, you have to consider the HUD policy of allowing former felons for better housing as long as they haven’t committed a crime in seven years upon release to the community. 


Accepting or refusing rental applications of people with a felony record is a bit tricky. The HUD policy says that landlords can accept felons to their rental properties if the person hasn’t committed another crime in seven years since his release. On the other hand, it’s not illegal discrimination to refuse someone with a felony record because of safety concerns. It will be wise if you get advice from a lawyer to learn more about this issue. 

Topics: landlord tips, rental property