Am I Required to Rent to a Registered Sex Offender?

With so much in the news today about registered sex offenders moving into neighborhoods and stirring the neighbors into action, in time you are likely to have one apply to rent one of your units. But, are there any laws that protect landlords in the event they refuse to rent to those who are registered sex offenders.

By the Letter of the Law

According to Federal Law, all registered sex offenders are required to register their permanent address with a national database. In certain instances, both state and local laws may place a limit on where sex offenders are able to live. Usually, this includes not allowing them to rent homes near schools, daycare centers, parks, and just about anywhere else where children are typically present.

When you consider that there are well over three-quarters of a million registered sex offenders in the United States, finding a home can be all but impossible for the average sex offender. But at the same time, the question remains as to whether there are any laws in place that require a landlord or property manager to provide a rental home to anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime.

Where Do the Laws Come in Then?

The reality is, that all landlords and property managers are required to be in full compliance with all Fair Housing laws. If you are like most managers, you run every applicant through a very thorough background investigation, which of course includes checking for a criminal record. Under the Fair Housing laws, you may not discriminate based on race, religion, color, national origin, familial status, sex, and disability.

Currently, however, there are no laws in place designed to protect those who have criminal backgrounds, including registered sex offenders. Be sure you check with your state and local laws as well as federal laws before you make any final decisions. Keep in mind that while you may simply not wish to rent to a person who has been convicted of sex crimes, you need to make sure you are within your legal rights to decline any tenant. Unless there are laws in place to protect you from adverse legal action, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a serious lawsuit.

Keeping the Neighborhood Calm

Since you are under no legal obligation to rent to a registered sex offender, you are under no obligation to rent to them or anyone else with a criminal background. The best way to avoid creating a neighborhood filled with protesters and disgruntled neighbors, your best bet would be to simply avoid renting to this type of prospective tenant.

But, no matter how you look at it, you need to start by checking all federal, state, and local laws to ensure you will not be violating them by refusing to rent one or more of your properties to anyone who has been convicted of any type of sex crime and is required by law to put their name on the National List of Registered Sex Offenders. You can access the National Sex Offender Public Website here.