Can You Rent an Apartment with a Misdemeanor? Here’s What You Need to Know

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the often murky terrain of renting an apartment with a misdemeanor on your record. If you’ve been wondering, “Can you rent an apartment with a misdemeanor?” – the short answer is yes, but there are challenges to overcome. In this blog post, we’ll delve into your legal rights, practical tips, and ways to build a strong rental application, ensuring you have the best chance of securing housing even with a misdemeanor.

renting with a misdemeanor, Can You Rent an Apartment with a Misdemeanor
Renting with a misdemeanor

Over 70 million Americans have a criminal record. This can make finding an apartment with a misdemeanor a challenge. Landlords often fear liability, whether the offense happened years ago or more recently. So, Navigating the rental landscape with a misdemeanor requires a solid understanding of your rights  and the legal framework that protects individuals with criminal records. Let’s delve into the key aspects of this critical foundation.

1. Fair Housing Laws and Your Rights

The cornerstone of your rights as a prospective tenant with a misdemeanor (tenant rights with criminal records) is the Fair Housing Act. This federal law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status. Importantly, it also protects individuals with criminal records.

State-specific laws might offer additional protections, and it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the regulations in your specific location. Knowledge of these laws empowers you to advocate for your rights during the application process.

2. Criminal Background Checks for Apartments

Landlords often conduct criminal background checks to assess the risk of renting to an individual. Understanding the components of these checks is vital in preparing for potential challenges.

Components of Criminal Background Checks:

  • Arrest records: Documentation of past arrests.
  • Convictions: Information about any criminal convictions.
  • Expunged or sealed records: Whether certain records have been cleared.
  • Pending charges: Ongoing legal matters that may impact your record.

Being aware of what landlords are looking for allows you to proactively address concerns and present a compelling case for yourself.

3. Expungement and Sealing Records

Expunging or sealing your criminal record is a legal process that can positively impact your rental prospects. Let’s break down the steps involved.

Expungement Process:

Determine eligibilityConsult with a legal professional to assess eligibility
File petitionFollow the legal process to request expungement
Await court decisionThe court reviews the request and makes a decision

Understanding the expungement process is essential, as it provides an opportunity to demonstrate rehabilitation and a commitment to a law-abiding lifestyle.

Practical Tips for Renting with a Misdemeanor

Now that you have a grasp of your rights and the legal landscape, let’s explore practical tips to enhance your chances of renting with a misdemeanor.

1. Building a Strong Rental Application

Crafting a compelling rental application is a proactive step that can significantly influence a landlord’s decision.

Components of a Strong Rental Application:

  • Positive rental references: Provide references from previous landlords attesting to your reliability.
  • Co-signer with good credit: A co-signer with a strong credit history can bolster your application.
  • Letter explaining the misdemeanor: Draft a letter explaining the circumstances of the misdemeanor and highlighting rehabilitation efforts.

A well-constructed application helps landlords see beyond the misdemeanor, focusing on your potential as a responsible tenant.

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2. Disclosing Criminal History to Landlords

Honesty is key when it comes to sharing your criminal history with potential landlords. Given that many landlords conduct criminal background checks, being forthright about what they might discover is a prudent approach. For example, if you have a previous indiscretion, a DUI, or ongoing issues related to drugs, it’s advisable to disclose this information proactively, rather than leaving it for them to uncover independently.

Sample Disclosure Language:

Statement TypeExample
Acknowledgment“I want to be transparent about my past…”
Explanation“…I have learned from my mistakes and taken steps to improve my life.”

Crafting a thoughtful disclosure statement demonstrates responsibility and a commitment to open communication.

3. Finding Landlord-Friendly Housing with Misdemeanors

Exploring housing options that are more receptive to individuals with misdemeanors is a strategic approach.

Strategies for Finding Landlord-Friendly Housing:

  • Second chance housing programs: Seek out programs designed to give individuals a fresh start.
  • Offer to Pay Upfront: This approach signals your seriousness about wanting the apartment and provides reassurance of your financial stability. Landlords may find this offer compelling, as it ensures a reliable income source to cover rent for an extended period.
  • Appeal rental denials: Provide additional documentation to appeal denials. Such as: Proof of Rehabilitation, Character References and a Background Check Explanation.
  • Negotiate with potential landlords: Open communication can help address concerns and establish trust.

Understanding and implementing these strategies can open up opportunities for securing housing even with a misdemeanor on your record.

4. Providing Proof of Stable or Increased Income

To support your offer to pay upfront and further allay landlord concerns, providing tangible proof of stable or increased income is essential. This documentation helps landlords assess your ability to meet ongoing rent payments and show that you are serious potential tenant.

Documentation Examples:

  • W-2 Forms: Offer W-2 forms from the past year to showcase a stable income.
  • Recent Pay Stubs: Present recent pay stubs indicating consistent earnings.
  • Bank Statements: Provide bank statements as evidence of financial stability.

For those who are self-employed, tax returns or 1099 forms can serve as valuable documentation. These documents paint a clear picture of your financial capacity, reinforcing your reliability as a tenant.

Read Also About: Navigating “Insufficient Income to Support Rent”: A Practical Guide

State-Specific Laws and Regulations

Understanding the nuances of state-specific laws and regulations is crucial for anyone navigating the rental landscape with a misdemeanor. While federal laws like the Fair Housing Act provide a baseline, state laws may offer additional protections or considerations.

Navigating State-Specific Challenges

Each state has its own set of laws regarding tenant rights, background checks, and housing discrimination. It’s essential to research and comprehend the specific regulations in your state to navigate challenges effectively.

Some State-Specific legal resources for tenants with criminal records:

StateRelevant Laws and Regulations
CaliforniaCalifornia Department of Fair Housing and Employment
New YorkDivision of Housing and Community Renewal
TexasTexas Property Code Chapter 7 (Landlord-Tenant Law)
VirginiaVirginia Code: Landlord and Tenant Chapter

By understanding the state-specific legal landscape, you can tailor your approach to renting with a misdemeanor based on local regulations.

Additional Resources and Support

Additional Resources and Support for tenants with criminal records, Can You Rent an Apartment with a Misdemeanor
Additional Resources and Support for tenants with criminal records

In addition to legal knowledge, having access to resources and support networks can significantly impact your ability to secure housing with a misdemeanor on your record.

1. HUD Guidelines and Fair Housing Act Resources

As per the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), outrightly denying housing to someone with a criminal history might be considered discriminatory. However, it’s crucial to recognize that you may still be required to disclose your criminal history when specifically asked by the landlord.

For valuable insights and guidance on handling housing discrimination rooted in criminal records, refer to the resources and guidelines available through this page. These materials can be immensely beneficial in understanding your rights and the steps you can take to address potential discriminatory practices.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to legal professionals if needed. Your proactive approach can make a significant difference in promoting fair housing practices and ensuring equal opportunities for individuals with criminal histories.

2. Housing Assistance Programs

If the traditional rental market proves challenging, government programs and private organizations can provide valuable assistance. Exploring these programs can open up new opportunities for securing housing.


Applying for these programs may involve a waiting period, so it’s advisable to apply as soon as possible, especially if facing tight deadlines at your current residence.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does the type of misdemeanor matter?

Yes, the type of misdemeanor can greatly impact your chances of securing an apartment. Violent crimes, drug offenses, and property damage are likely to raise red flags for landlords. Less serious misdemeanors, like traffic violations or disorderly conduct, may have less of an impact, but be prepared to explain the circumstances and demonstrate rehabilitation (if applicable).

How far back do background checks look for criminal records?

It depends on your location and the type of background check used. Most checks look back 7-10 years, but some extend further or include national databases. Expunged or sealed records may not appear, but check your state’s regulations.

What happens if I lie about my criminal record on a rental application?

Lying on a rental application is considered fraud and can have serious consequences. You could be denied housing, face legal action, and lose your security deposit. Landlords often verify records, and dishonesty can damage your trustworthiness as a tenant. Always be upfront and honest, even if you’re worried about your record.


In conclusion, while renting with a misdemeanor presents challenges, it’s not an insurmountable obstacle. By understanding your rights, following practical tips, and staying informed about state-specific laws, you can navigate the rental landscape with confidence. Remember, building a strong rental application and being transparent about your criminal history are crucial steps towards securing the housing you deserve. download our comprehensive checklist to guide you through the process.

With our guide, you’ll not only answer the question, “Can you rent an apartment with a misdemeanor?” but also empower yourself with the knowledge needed to take proactive steps towards a successful rental journey.

Downloadable Checklist: “Building Your Strongest Rental Application with a Misdemeanor