You’re looking for an apartment to rent. You have a job, and you’ve saved money for your security deposit. You’ve packed your things in boxes, and you’ve lined up a van or truck to help you move. You’re prepared to have your credit checked, but are you prepared to explain yourself if the landlord runs a background check on you? Are you prepared for the possibility that you’ll be denied because of your criminal record?
Let’s take a closer look at criminal background checks for apartment leases. Understanding more on this subject will help ensure that you’re fully prepared before you file an application.
Apartment Criminal Background Checks in Florida
Can landlords legally run background checks on apartment applicants in Florida? Yes, they are within their legal bounds to run credit checks and background checks on applicants. If a landlord is nice, he or she can ask for your permission, but they are not legally required to do so. So, if you’re about to renew your lease, or if you’re in the market for a new apartment or house to rent, read on to learn about your rights.
What Landlords Can & Cannot Do
Suppose you respond to an ad for an apartment on Craigslist or you walk in because there’s a sign posted outside the complex about vacant apartments. When you request an application, the landlord or property manager asks if you have a criminal record. When you answer “yes,” the landlord tells you not to bother filling out an application.
If you feel you were discriminated against before you got the chance to apply because of your criminal history or because of your race or gender, you’re encouraged to contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development, otherwise known as “HUD.”
According to HUD, approximately 100 million adults in the United States have some sort of criminal record—that’s nearly one-third of the U.S. population. With 2.2 million adults making up the U.S. prison population, we have the largest number of inmates in the world. “As of 2012, the United States accounted for only about five percent of the world’s population, yet almost one-quarter of the world’s prisoners were held in American prisons,” according to hud.gov.
HUD says that since 2004, about 650,000 inmates have been released from state and federal prisons each year, and more than 95 percent of the current inmates will be released in the future. “When individuals are released from prisons and jails, their ability to access safe, secure and affordable housing is critical to their successful reentry to society.”
Unfortunately, when offenders are released from jails and prisons across the country, they tend to have significant difficulty renting a house or an apartment, and according to HUD, this includes federally-subsidized housing.
Your Rights After a Criminal Background Check
If a landlord refuses to rent an apartment to you after performing a criminal background check, you do have rights and options.
If this happens to you, then your rights are as follows:
- You must receive notice of the adverse decision orally, electronically, or in writing.
- The notice provided by the landlord must include the contact information of the company that ran the background check.
- The notice must explain your rights about correcting inaccurate information, and it must inform you of your right to a free copy within 60 days of the landlord’s negative decision.
About Running Consumer Reports
When a landlord is considering an applicant or deciding if they want to renew an existing tenant’s lease, they may decide to run a background check. A tenant’s background check can include various types of information, such as criminal records, credit history, and rental and eviction history. These background reports are commonly referred to as “Consumer Reports,” according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
To learn more about background checks on existing and potential tenants, read, “Using Consumer Reports: What Landlords Need to Know” published by the FTC.
We’re Here to Help
Even if you have a criminal record, you may be able to have this sealed. This process is referred to as expungement, and you may be eligible in certain circumstances to have your record sealed, meaning you could legally answer “no” when asked by a landlord whether you have a criminal record. A standard background check would also reveal a clean record.
At Thomas & Paulk, we understand how detrimental apartment criminal background checks can be. Whether you already have a criminal record and are interested in expungement or are currently facing criminal charges and want to know how to avoid a conviction and its consequences, we’re standing by to help.
Our attorneys are former prosecutors who have successfully represented thousands of clients across Tampa, Hillsborough County, and all of Florida. We know how to protect your rights and present your options in the face of a background check, expungement, or criminal charge.
For more information, contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. to set up a free case evaluation with a former prosecutor who’s on your side.