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Home · Property Management · Tenant Screening : Sex Offenders Have Rental Rights, Too

by Janet Portman, Inman News

Identity photoQ: One of my neighbors informed me that one of my newest tenants is a registered sex offender (I’m not sure how she found this out).

He stated on his rental application that he had a three-year-old felony conviction, but he did not report details.

Figuring that everyone deserves a chance, I did not ask further and rented to him and his wife and two young children, giving them a yearlong lease. They’ve caused no problems. Our local sheriff’s department plans to notify the neighbors of his address and criminal history.

I’m concerned about the safety of this man and his family, as well as how I should handle this situation with the neighbors. Can you please provide me with some guidance on how I should proceed? –Jan

A: You’ve encountered one of the most difficult situations a landlord can find herself in. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

You were not legally required to ask about your tenant’s criminal history, and you’ve broken no laws by learning that the applicant had a criminal past but not going further to find out what the conviction entailed. And even had you learned the details, a decision to rent nevertheless would not have been illegal. But legalities are one thing, and practicalities are another.
Your fear that neighbors will react negatively to your new tenant is well-founded. Neighbors who learn that a registered offender lives in their midst have often reacted strongly, demanding that the offender move away. Many offenders have been rendered homeless by the refusal of landlords to rent to them (when they provide their history) or the constant harassment of neighbors who want them gone. When the offender is homeless and no longer registering at his home address, the whole point of the registration system (tracking the whereabouts of a registrant) is frustrated.


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To effectively deal with the situation, start with the police department themselves. With luck, you’ll find that they have developed educational materials aimed at answering questions that neighbors commonly ask, and they may be willing to come out to your property and speak to a gathering of the neighbors. Meet immediately with your tenant and his family, and assure them that you will protect their right to live peacefully in their home as long as they have a legal right to live there. Understand that until these tenants give you a legal reason to terminate their tenancy, your (or your neighbors’) fear alone that the father will commit a crime on the premises will not support a decision to terminate their lease or evict them.

Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of “Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” and “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide.” She can be reached at [email protected]. What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

Copyright 2008 Janet Portman

See Janet Portman’s feature, Why Landlords Need Liability Insurance.

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  • Paulletta

    I thought the article was very informative and straight forward.

  • Candy bowerbank

    we live in Utah my husband sex offender its hard to find places to rent for him can anybody help us

  • Malai Benavidez

    My family and I are now after 5 years being ask to move. My husband 22 years ago was a victim of a vicious ex-wife that was extremely bitter that he moved on. He went to court and was very poorly represented. In very fine print he initialed that as part of his probation he would register as a sex offender and had no idea. The judge never brought it up once in court. They dismissed most charges because of lack of evidence. He went to court for domestic dispute and admitted to pushing his ex because she was slapping and hitting him so he pushed her away and left. A year goes by with nothing and wouldn’t you know I have a baby and all the sudden she wants to reopen the case. Now here we are can’t rent because or wonderful system puts everyone on the registry regardless how petty. Mind you we have expunged case, filed all the paperwork needed for removal of the internet. Even applied for a pardon. This is in California, they do not care, even the lawyers who looked at the case said, there were major loop holes. Each county gets money per every registered sex offender. I thought the purpose was to follow or know who was a rapist that actually raped someone with evidence. I also thought it was to protect our children from pedophiles. It’s ridiculous how many people on the website are non violent offenders. The governor does not care, people react to the title and categorize you as a sick individual or monster. You fear for your safety, life and well being. NO one cares, no one listens, and I have no respect for our system at all. Moving from California to Oregon and it’s been a no go even when you are honest about the situation, doesn’t matter you are already judged. Remember people it’s the ones you do not know about that you should fear not the ones who are willing to be open and discuss the situation, they have nothing to hide. If you are poor and have a public defender, you stand no chance guarantee 100% for a fact that had my husband had proper representation he would never be in this situation at all. Still have not heard back from governor, president, senate and department of justice. They all received packets for removal and not one response, they do not care because they can get away with what ever.

  • coolbeans2015

    This article leaves so much to talk about with these situations. Like how police take offenders with no ‘notification requirements’ and still contact neighbors to notify them of an offender moving in. Also, even if the offender is just a regular ‘sex offender’ in/on their registration, the flyers will depict them as ‘sexual predators’. This has been argued, and lost. Also, when an officer does come out for ‘address verification’, how even after the person has signed, they will remain parked there, for hours, until someone takes the time to come up to them and ask what the problem is, so they can show them the offenders address verification for everyone to know! And no, no police department (sex offender registration department) has any information, anything informative, nor beneficial for the public and offenders. They will not even let an offender know of any areas that meet requirements. Its just up to the offender to find addresses that meet distance guidelines in their areas. But, when the said areas start having more & more offenders move there, its because the ‘sex offenders’ are up to something! See! They always group up….. 99% of all sex offenses towards children are perpetrated by an adult that is IN THE CHILDS LIFE! Uncle, sibling, father/mother, etc…. Not a stranger! That is why the registration (public) is useless. Society would deter more crime, and crime that will affect your family by having registration requirements, and open lists for murders, drug dealers, etc…. than supposed sex offenders. But, it is as alot of other laws are, they got someone elected. It feels good to persecute someone else. If someone has committed a crime to a child, and is likely to do so again, there are already laws in place that will put them away for the rest of their lives. Second offenses in sex crimes usually have penalties of 50 years or more when a person re-commits, and even a decade or more for just violations of not meeting their requirements, not even a new charge! If you want to shock yourself, read into, find out how large a percentage of accusations in this type of crime are false, not even going to talk numbers, it would leave alot of people disbelieving.

  • Stesha Dejardo

    In Utah. My Fiance has a 15 year old sex offense, no longer on parole, and we have contacted multiple apartment management companies. Every answer is the same. No. ANY sex offense is an automatic denial. Here, good luck finding somewhere that seems like a nice safe place to raise your children. Best way to find somewhere? Look up the registry and search the same complexes most live in. People here have made it impossible for offenders trying to rehabilitate to do so. Forced to live in clusters throughout the valley. Some of these offenders are people that have gotten “the short end of the stick.” One time offenders that weren’t even aware they were committing a crime, people wrongly accused and unjustly prosecuted, grown adults that made a detrimental mistake in their youth. Yes there are still offenders out there that can and will become predatory and offend or re-offend. However, all of these individual cases and people are lumped into one group on a registry that labels them as simply sex offender/kidnapper.

  • LisaMarie Serafino

    I need help finding a place in richmond va for my family because my boyfriend is a registered sex offender although not for a minor we have 4 kids

  • Heather Louison

    What happens when you find out your landlord is a sex offender? I just found out mine is on the registry he also has keys to my house and my very young children live with me.

  • india

    My boyfriend is a registered sex offender and I am having a very hard time find some where in richmond va also. I’m just woundering if you find somewhere yet please share the information please. Thanks

  • purplegirl

    Hello, Im in the same situation as you and live in the same state as you, were you able to find housing? I doubt that you will see this, but it would be great if you did and could guide me. Thanks!

  • Stesha Dejardo

    Never found anything that was worth it. We’ve spent all this time fixing his credit so we can apply for a USDA home loan.

  • Stesha Dejardo

    First thing first, breathe. Not all offenders should be considered the same. Look up his name, see what he was even charged with. If you don’t feel safe, reach out and talk to him. You may be seeing something that look a horrible and is really nothing. My fiancé was charged with aggravated sexual assault 2nd degree. He did 10 years in prison and 5 more on parole. What did he do? Got drunk at a party and slept with a girl. He was 2 weeks from 18. She was 15. He made a mistake, but he’s on the same list as some creepy piece of garbage that rapes babies for fun. So, when all else fails, give the guy a chance to explain himself

  • Erica Lewis

    Why are there so many cries for help but no answers i don’t think its right for 1st time sex offenders to be treated this badly especially when the statement made is false. Now my fiance’ is stuck with a title on a crime he didn’t even commit..

    It is very hard to find a place in collinsville IL where we stay now and i don’t know what to do this site is really depressing because everyone is looking for help but no on e has any answers.
    He has been in prison since he was 17 and is now 29 in the fight of his life because no one wants to rent to an alleged sex offender.

  • Danielle Holland

    Im so sad all the time because I love my boyfriend and all we want is to live together, mind our own business and work but it seems like we can’t find a location in Jacksonville Florida with his charge and transition houses won’t let me live with him. He works the day shift and I work night shift so I won’t really see him unless I lay next to him every night when I get off to go to sleep or to wake up to him getting ready for work. I’m so sad everyday because I love him so much

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