Can an apartment reject you for misdemeanors? Tips for Success

Yes, an apartment can reject you for misdemeanors in the United States. Landlords and property managers possess the legal right to refuse rental to individuals with a criminal record, which includes misdemeanors. However, several crucial factors influence their decision-making process.

10 Factors Affecting Rental Approval with a Misdemeanor

When assessing whether to rent to an individual with a misdemeanor, landlords weigh several factors:

  • Nature and Severity of the Misdemeanor:
    Landlords differentiate between minor misdemeanors (like traffic violations) and more serious offenses (such as theft or drug-related charges). The nature and severity of the misdemeanor influence their decision.
  • Providing Character References:
    Letters of recommendation from employers, colleagues, or community members can attest to the applicant’s character and reliability. These references can often outweigh concerns about the misdemeanor.
  • Rehabilitation Efforts:
    Rehabilitation, like completing programs or securing employment, influences landlords positively.
  • Financial and Rental History:
    A strong financial history, including a good credit score, combined with positive references from previous landlords, can mitigate concerns regarding a misdemeanor.
  • Honesty and Transparency:
    Being forthright about the misdemeanor during the application process builds trust with the landlord and demonstrates accountability for past actions.
  • Offering a Higher Security Deposit or Advanced Rent Payments:
    Providing a higher security deposit or paying rent in advance can offer additional assurance to landlords regarding the applicant’s commitment to fulfilling their rental obligations.
  • Having a Co-Signer with Good Credit:
    The presence of a co-signer with a solid credit history can alleviate the landlord’s concerns about the applicant’s ability to meet rent payments.
  • Renting from Smaller Landlords or Property Managers:
    Smaller landlords may be more flexible with applicants who have misdemeanors compared to larger property management companies, which often have stricter rental policies.
  • State and Local Laws:
    Knowing housing discrimination laws empowers applicants to assert rights.
  • Legal Recourse:
    If an applicant believes they were unjustly denied housing due to their misdemeanor, they may have legal options. Contacting a fair housing organization or an attorney can provide guidance on asserting their rights.

State Laws and Exceptions

States with Time-Limited Restrictions on Landlords Considering Misdemeanors

Here is the list of states with laws that prohibit landlords from considering misdemeanors that are older than a certain period of time, presented in a table format:

StateTime Period
California7 years
Colorado7 years
Delaware7 years
Hawaii7 years
Idaho7 years
Illinois7 years
Iowa7 years
Kentucky7 years
Massachusetts3 years
Minnesota3 years
Montana7 years
Nebraska7 years
Nevada7 years
New Jersey7 years
New Mexico7 years
New York7 years
North Carolina7 years
Ohio7 years
Oregon7 years
Pennsylvania7 years
Rhode Island7 years
South Carolina7 years
Vermont7 years
Virginia7 years
Washington7 years
Wisconsin7 years
Wyoming7 years

In certain states, laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their criminal history. However, these laws often contain exceptions, particularly for crimes related to housing or safety concerns.


1. Fair Housing Act:

   – The Fair Housing Act generally does not prohibit landlords from rejecting applicants with misdemeanors. However, it does not apply to certain types of housing, such as owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units or single-family homes sold or rented without the use of a real estate agent.

2. Risk Assessment:

   – Landlords have the legal right to reject applicants if they believe that a past misdemeanor poses a risk to the property or other tenants. This assessment should be based on objective criteria and not on personal bias or discrimination.

3. Arrest Records:

   – Landlords should not deny tenants based solely on arrest records, as innocent people can be arrested. However, they can consider criminal convictions when making their decision.

4. Local Laws:

   – Some cities may have specific regulations that restrict landlords from pulling background checks or rejecting tenants based on criminal history. It is crucial to check local laws to ensure compliance with these regulations.

5. Exceptions:

   – There may be exceptions to the general rules, depending on the state and locality. For example, housing providers may be allowed to check the New York State sex offense registry and deny housing to a person on the registry. These exceptions can vary and should be considered when evaluating an applicant’s criminal history.

Strategies to Increase Approval Chances

If you have a misdemeanor on your record and are applying to rent an apartment, follow these strategies to enhance your approval chances:

Include a Letter of Explanation:

Craft a well-written and concise appeal letter addressing the landlord’s concerns and providing additional information or clarification.

Letter Template Download

Download Appeal Letter Template

Click the link below to download the template in a TXT file:

Download Template

Offer Increased Security Deposit or Advance Rent:

Consider offering to pay a higher security deposit or rent in advance as a sign of commitment.

Seek a Co-Signer:

If feasible, enlist a co-signer with a strong credit history to vouch for your reliability.

Consider Smaller Landlords or Property Managers:

Smaller property owners may be more willing to work with applicants with misdemeanors, offering a more personalized assessment.

Know Your Legal Recourse

If you face rejection due to your misdemeanor, you may have legal options. Reach out to a fair housing organization or consult an attorney to better understand your rights and potential avenues for resolution.

Resources for tenants with misdemeanors

  • National Housing Law Project:
    The National Housing Law Project is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the housing rights of low-income people. They offer various resources for tenants with misdemeanors, including a fact sheet on fair housing rights and a list of state and local fair housing organizations.
  • National Low Income Housing Coalition:
    The National Low Income Housing Coalition is another nonprofit organization that advocates for affordable housing. They provide resources for tenants with misdemeanors, including a fact sheet on your rights as a tenant and a guide to finding affordable housing.
  • Legal Services Corporation:
    The Legal Services Corporation is a nonprofit organization that offers free legal assistance to low-income individuals. They can help you understand your rights as a tenant and assist you in challenging discrimination.
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):
    The ACLU is a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending civil liberties. They offer resources for tenants with misdemeanors, including a fact sheet on fair housing rights and a guide to challenging discrimination.
  • Fair Housing Centers:
    Fair housing centers are nonprofit organizations focused on eliminating housing discrimination. They can help you understand your rights as a tenant and support you in challenging discrimination.

In addition to these national organizations, many state and local organizations can provide assistance to tenants with misdemeanors. You can find a list of state and local fair housing organizations on the website of the National Fair Housing Alliance.

If you are a tenant with a misdemeanor, it’s crucial to be aware of your rights and seek assistance when needed. The resources mentioned above can provide you with the information and support necessary to find housing and protect your rights.


In conclusion, apartments in the United States do have the legal authority to reject applicants with misdemeanors, but this decision is influenced by various factors, including the nature of the misdemeanor and the applicant’s efforts towards rehabilitation. State and local laws also play a significant role, with some states limiting how far back landlords can consider misdemeanor convictions. It’s essential for applicants to be aware of their rights, explore strategies to improve their chances, and seek legal assistance if faced with unjust discrimination. Understanding the nuances of the law and seeking support can help individuals with misdemeanors secure housing opportunities.

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