The guidance below describes how a criminal record may affect applicants and tenants at North Carolina apartment communities built with Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
Apartment owners and management companies may conduct a criminal background check on each adult member of a household. They may also use the results of the check to determine whether an individual qualifies for housing.
Apartments with income limits from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program must follow certain guidelines when reviewing a rental application where a person living in the home has a criminal record. For a full list of apartments that must follow this guidance, visit the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency website by clicking here.
1. Will the apartment reject me because I have a criminal record?
Apartments may look at convictions from the date of conviction (not the date of release from incarceration) to the date of application.
- The apartment should not consider a conviction of someone living in the home if it was for a:
- Nonviolent misdemeanor from more than 5 years ago; or
- Nonviolent felony from more than 7 years ago.
- The apartment may conduct an “individualized assessment” and ask you for more information (see #2 below) about a conviction of someone in the home if it was for a:
- Violent misdemeanor conviction from more than 2 years ago;
- Nonviolent misdemeanor conviction from less than 5 years ago.
- Violent felony conviction from more than 5 years ago;
- Felony conviction involving the sale or manufacture of a controlled substance between 5 and 10 years ago; or
- Nonviolent felony conviction from less than 7 years ago.
- The apartment may automatically reject your application if someone living in the home has a:
- Violent misdemeanor conviction from less than 2 years ago.
- Violent felony conviction from less than 5 years ago; or
- Felony conviction involving the sale or manufacture of a controlled substance from less than 5 years ago.
If the apartment asks about criminal convictions, you should be honest about any conviction and present any information about any individual circumstances (see # 4 below). Landlords may reject an application if they discover an applicant lied during the application process.
2. What happens during the “individualized assessment”?
This is your opportunity to explain to the apartment that you will be a good tenant. The apartment will consider your individual circumstances, such as:
- the seriousness of the criminal offense
- whether the offense affects the safety and security of residents, staff or property
- the length of time since the offense
- your age at the time of the offense
- evidence of rehabilitation, such as having a job or participating in a job training program, education, participation in a drug or alcohol treatment program
Letters of support may be helpful. Letters could be from a parole or probation officer, employer, teacher, social worker, treatment program, current or prior landlord, or community leader. The apartment may not give much credit to letters from a friend or family member.
You could also show the apartment that you are or will be receiving support or other assistance from a non-profit organizations or government agency.
3. What if the conviction is related to my disability?
If the criminal conviction is related to your disability, you should ask the apartment to consider a reasonable accommodation (or change) to its rules or policies. The apartment should not reject your application because of a criminal background that is related to your physical or mental disability. Past substance abuse can be a disability if you are in recovery.
4. What about arrests? Or if the conviction has been dismissed or expunged?
The apartment should not reject your rental application because of an arrest or charge that was resolved without conviction. The apartment should also not reject your application because of expunged or sealed convictions.
5. What about pending charges?
If you have an arrest with pending charges, the apartment may consider this as part of the individualized assessment (described above).
- If the apartment cannot determine the details of the pending charges, it may delay the decision or deny admission until the charges are resolved.
- If the apartment can identify the details of the pending charges, they should approve your rental application if a later conviction would not change the decision to rent.
6. The apartment told me that I do not qualify. What can I do?
The apartment should have sent you a letter explaining that they are going to reject your application because of the results of the criminal background search. The letter should have included the name, address and phone number of the agency that completed the criminal report. You have a right to a free copy of the report from the agency.
The letter should have given you an opportunity to challenge the accuracy of the record or present mitigating circumstances. You have 8 business days to contact the apartment to dispute the accuracy of the record or present mitigating circumstances.
If you do not contact the apartment during that time, the apartment will send you a letter that you do not qualify for the housing, including the specific reason for the denial. The letter should tell you how to appeal the decision.
If you need help, contact the Fair Housing Project of Legal Aid of North Carolina by calling toll free at 1-855-797-3247. We may be able to help you understand and advocate for your fair housing rights. There is no charge for any of our services, and all calls are confidential.
- DOCUMENT every interaction you have with the housing provider. Include information about the property, addresses, dates, times, names of the people you spoke with, and nature of the interaction.
- SAVE any applications, brochures, emails, texts, and any other documents related to the interaction.
- If you are denied because of your criminal history, ASK FOR A COPY of the background check they conducted. You are legally entitled to it.
The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant (FEOI190031) with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.