Registered Sex Offenders and Housing: A Situation Guaranteed to Challenge

Conducting a background check on new tenants (often referred to as a tenant check) has one purpose:  Risk Mitigation.  There are three key areas a landlord or property manager wants to mitigate risk:

  1.      Property
  2.      Perception
  3.      People
  •          The protection of property is obvious.  A landlord wants to keep a property fully occupied and in working order.  Without occupancy there is no income.  An empty apartment or house that requires a great deal of repair is costly.  And the longer the property sits empty and unoccupied the greater the loss.
  •          The protection of perception is a little trickier to define.  Everyone knows that one apartment complex that lacks in repair, engages in frequent police activity or has walls covered in numerous tags; essentially unkempt and falling apart.  The perception of this property is very low and the opportunity to upgrade that perception in order to attract a more viable clientele can be a challenge.
  •         Protecting people is, perhaps, the most important duty of a landlord or property manager during the tenant vetting process.  Many of the public records that might be utilized are specific to the person.  These reports will contain information about an individual’s past that may highlight indiscretions or legal issues that could indicate future behavior.

When one considers these three segments of risk mitigation tenant screening, along with a thorough interview and complete application, can greater assist in eliminating or substantially decreasing risk.

One of the more complex considerations faced within tenant screening is an applicant who is on the national sex offender registry.  Placement on the registry occurs when an individual is convicted of a sex-based crime, either misdemeanor or felony.  Subsequently, regardless the severity of the conviction, placement on the registry could follow an individual through the entirety of their life.

For example, a low-level misdemeanor conviction for public urination is often phrased as indecent exposure or public lewdness, both offenses that may require registering as a sex offender.

Housing for registered sex offenders often follow strict guidelines.  Each state has specific requirements for where an offender can take up residence.  These rules often require living a certain distance away from gathering places for minors, such as schools, parks and churches.

Adam Almeida, President and CEO of TenantScreeningUSA.com states:  “It is important that a landlord use a tenant background check the right way and in an intelligent way.  There is no law that states a landlord must rent to a registered sex offender. The severity of the crime may be a guide for a landlord, but protecting existing tenants, especially families, is of equal or higher consideration.”

Third-party tenant screening companies can provide landlords and property managers the information needed to make a well informed decision about an individual.  Sex offender registry information can be provided as part of a tenant screening package.

When push comes to shove, landlords discovering an applicant on a registry may have a difficult choice to make, one that is generally not covered under code or law.  While it is true that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has recently released new guidance on the use of Criminal Records as a part of the tenant vetting process, the use of sex offender registry information is entirely on the landlord.

While the decision over which tenant to select can be a challenge, access to information is not.  TenantScreeningUSA.com is a third-party tenant screening company with the ability to provide fast, accurate, low-cost information that allows a landlord a little more peace of mind in making decisions.

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