General Question

Divalicious's avatar

How long would be a reasonable time to forgive a potential renter's prior history?

Asked by Divalicious (2170points) October 1st, 2008

Due to the housing market, my house flipping is turning into rental properties. How much time should pass before forgiving non-felony criminal history? Cannabis possession, domestic violence, vicious dog, etc. Can I legally refuse anyone with charges greater than traffic offenses?
Being a corrections officer, I know the rate of recidivism. I’m afraid I’ll never rent to anyone!

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29 Answers

damien's avatar

The time it’d take me to forgive…

Cannabis possesion – 5 secs.
Vicious Dog – 5 mins.
Domestic Violence – Years.

Why would someone having a petty crime on their record make them any less of a good tenant? Granted, more serious crimes point towards someone’s personality or traits, but with smaller crimes, I don’t think you should be so quick to judge.

critter1982's avatar

These may be petty crimes but you need to think twice about renting to these types of people. All drugs have profound impacts on the neurochemical balances in the brain, which can many times lead to drug abuse and addiction. Many people who “ABUSE” drugs are more likely to pay bills late, have collection agencies calling, and are less likely to follow a fixed budget therefore unable to keep track of their money.
I would certainly be quick to forgive in instances where there has only been one offense but multiple offenses I would be hesitant. I am extremely conservative when renting my properties. When you are giving someone a chance to live under a roof financed by your hard work, sometimes you have to be quick to judge.

basp's avatar

Depends on the situation. I would never rent to someone guilty of domestic abuse. Renting to someone withviolent tendancies is asking for trouble. As for a vicious dog, you may want to write a clause into the contract about keeping the dog under control somehow. As for canibus consumption, that would be a non issue.

shilolo's avatar

Perhaps more than a simple background check is necessary here. Ask for references from prior landlords and call them. Get the dirt first hand. If the offense was years ago, and the potential tenant has paid regularly and hasn’t been a nuisance, I say you should feel comfortable about it.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar


How about an alcoholic?? or someone that drinks socially?
Oh wait alcohol possession isnt a crime. I wish people would stop calling pot smokers drug abusers.

poofandmook's avatar

abuse: to use wrongly or improperly; misuse
drug: any article, other than food, intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals.

So by the very definition of the words, unless you are using pot for medicinal purposes, you are abusing a drug.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

So if alcohol is not used for medicinal purposes, is it abuse of a drug?

If so, how many drinks is abuse?

poofandmook's avatar

@chris: Yes, absolutely. Consuming alcohol, at the very base definition of the words, unless being used for medicinal OR religious purposes, is technically abuse of a drug.

poofandmook's avatar

With that said… say, in 100 years from now, alcohol and tobacco are illegal. I guarantee you they would get the same brand as pot has, and the use of them would be branded as “drug abuse.”

Edit/Note: I’m speaking purely in terms of language here. You don’t want people to use that language in reference to those who smoke pot, and so I’m pointing out that the use of that language is perfectly legit.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

And what if 100 years from now, pot was legal??

Would it than be not drug abuse?

@Diva sorry for changing the subject on you.
I smoke pot very often and have not been late on a rent payment ever.

Judi's avatar

This is the policy that I use. I consider criminal background. I will not rent until 10 years after the completion of their scentence for people convicted of drug crimes, or crimes harming people or property.

poofandmook's avatar

@Chris: Legality doesn’t change the definition of the words. It changes the perception of the substance in question… it is what it is by textual definition, but legality may change the readiness of people to refer to it as such.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

I gotcha. I would just hate to see someone that got arrested for a pot charge, without any information on past rent history, turned down for a place to live just for a pot charge.

critter1982's avatar

chris: A drug is any chemical compound or substance that can alter the structure and function of the body. Yes I would consider alcohol a drug too, and yes I would be more hesitant to rent a property to an “alcoholic” (not just the weekend or occasionaly drinker, but true alcoholics). I don’t want to make this into a political argument. I’m not saying “all” people who use drugs don’t pay rent; what I said is that people who use drugs are “more” likely to have issues paying the rent. Additionally, if landlords knowingly have tenants who use drugs there are many practical and legal issues the landlord could face.

- Anyone who is injured or annoyed by drug dealers, be it other tenants or people in the neighborhood may sue the landlord on the grounds that the property is a public nuisance that seriously threatens public safety or morals.
– Local, state, or federal authorities may levy stiff fines against the landlord for allowing illegal activity to continue.
– Law enforcement authorities may seek criminal penalties against the landlord for knowingly allowing drug dealing on the rental property.
– In extreme cases, the presence of drug dealers may result in the government confiscating the rental property.
– A drug dealing environment can make it difficult to find and keep good tenants, and the value of the rental property will plummet.

I rent my properties based on an individual basis and you can typically tell which tenants are and are not going to have issues based on their rent and credit history, and additionally their character. I would not, not rent a property to someone simply based on the fact that they sometimes smoke pot or drink alcohol, but it would at least in my case play a role in the decision making because of the aforementioned legality issues and the practical issue that these tenants (not you) are more likely to have issues paying the rent.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar


Thanks for that info. I was unaware of that. But a drug dealer is much different from a drug user.
The info that you provided is an even better reason for the legalization of drugs. Drug dealers would be out of business, or at least paying taxes and homeowners would no longer be at risk.

Judi's avatar

If you have never had a conviction you probably don’t have anything to worry about unless your drug behavior caused you to bother your neighbors in the past. Landlords don’t have a lot of tools at their disposal to decide what a recreational drug user and a drug abuser looks like. There are fair housing laws that keep us from discriminating unless we have verifiable evidence that you might not be an ideal resident. The few options that remain are credit history, employment history and income, (all of which answer your ability to pay)and rental history and criminal history (which answer you ability to be a good neighbor.) As landlords, we have a responsibility to your neighbors as much if not more that we have a responsibility to our bottom line. Since we can’t deny a person based on our gut feeling about them, we have to set up the fairest set of objective standards to ensure that everyone has an equal oportunity to qualify based on the same standard. (while still ensuring the quiet enjoymnent of their home to your neighbors.) I wish we could disect each crime and make exceptions, but that exposes us to huge fair housing liability. We just have to set the standard and not deviate.

poofandmook's avatar

Just out of curiosity, landlords… assume that you’re interviewing someone for a rental, and you see they have poor credit history, but their previous landlords have no complaints. Do you rent to them?

Judi's avatar

We have a 600 FICO rating requirement. Sometimes current landlords lie beause they desperately want to get rid of the person. Verifiable previous landlords sometimes make a better witness to their character. We have, during planned and set times (when occupancy is low)let people rent with a score of less than 600 by paying an additional deposit of $10.00 per point below 600 down to 550. We are working on modifying our criteria because of the latest credit and mortgage crisis. I am not sure exactly how we are going to objectivley identify those whose credit was ruined because of the mortgage crisis and those whose credit is ruined because of irresponsibility. Still working out the bugs.

deaddolly's avatar

I have to do background checks all day long on ppl. I was amazed in the beginning at ppl’s records. Now, I hire ppl based a lot off of the interview. I directly ask them about incidents.
I hired a woman which a felony (uttering) from 2007. She was convicted. She was also a reformed alcoholic and had been clean for over a year. She’s the best employee I ever hired.
Guess it depends on: if they were convicted. A lot of domestic cases are hard to determine; often both parties are arrested. I consider that a heat of the moment thing. See if they’re still married or if a restraining order is out there.
I tend to give ppl the benefit of the doubt; yes, I’ve been burned before, but ces’t la vie.
Do you have an online resource in your area to check for past evictions? So many of my employees go from place to place, getting evicted all the time. I feel for you landlords.

Judi's avatar

You can rely on the interview a lot more when hiring. When renting an apartment it is really easy for fair housing testers to determine any deviation from your criteria. You can get sued for offering water to one person and not another. It sometimes makes us look cold but it’s the system designed to be fair to everyone that forces us to be so strict in our criteria.

deaddolly's avatar

Exactly why I don’t own rental property!

Judi's avatar

dolly; It’s funny how this question
relates to this discussion.
I wish I could figure out that one word link thing!!

deaddolly's avatar

Judi: I agree and I can’t figure it out either:{

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

@judi and dolly

to do the one word link, (quotation)words you want to link(quotation)(colon)link

no parenthesis, just actual quotations

poofandmook's avatar


“oneword” : link

Take out the spaces on either side of the colon.

Emilyy's avatar

If I were a lanldord, I would much rather rent to pot smokers than drinkers. I’ve never seen a pot smoker get high and start a fight, start yelling, breaking stuff, causing problems with neighbors, etc, etc, etc. Most likely, pot users are going to get blazed and sit home watching movies and playing video games. Drinking alcohol is completely legal, but if someone is a complete drunk they could cause a lot more problems on your property with a legal substance than an illegal one. Dealing drugs is a little bit different.

@Judi: (and for everyone’s info) I’m impressed by your knowledge about fair housing! But, it’s sort of an urban myth in the housing provider community that you could get sued for not offering water/coffee/cookies to one person and offering it to another. I mean, maybe it’s better that those myths are out there to keep people in check. But I work in fair housing, and I think it would take a lot more than that for us to actually sue someone. We’re more concerned with making sure that everyone understands the law rather than just filing frivolous suits for stuff like that.

Judi's avatar

Thanks for the compliment. I teach fair housing for the Crime Free Multi Housing Program in my city.
I work in the market and although I may not get sued for offering a treat or water to one prospect and not another, I Would get my hand slapped. It IS improtant to treat everyone the same and it is good business too. I have less evictions now than I did 20 years ago when we were more likely to trust our first impression, and didn’t have a great definition of what “bad credit” looked like. Also, my occupancy is better because my managers are trained to treat people with mental handicaps the same as theyI do any other prospect. It is amazing how excited a person with a mental handicap is to rent from someone who treats them with dignity and respect. They are often the best residents because they have a rent payee who makes sure the rent is paid.
You can measure a drug conviction. A drinking problem can only be measured by a drunk driving or disorderly conduct arrest. I don’t want anyone with a history of bothering their neighbors in the apartment weather it is because of drugs, alcohol or spousal abuse. If I never find out that someone is or has been smoking pot then they probably are not bothering their neighbors and it’s not an issue to me. If they start dealing drugs or bringing drug dealers into the community, then it IS my problem! I tell my residents (all of them to be fair, it’s funny when their little old ladies) “If you want to party, do it at your friends house!” I also say that there are 2 rules. 1. pay your rent on time and 2. don’t bother your neighbors. I then explain the rules and say this is how you bother your neighbors.

Divalicious's avatar

Thank you all for your input.
@Judi: you have the same concerns I do; pay the rent and don’t bother the neighbors.

My county has a free court case history inquiry that I use to see if potential renters have been in trouble. Covering my butt because it’s public info and I don’t use my job’s database

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