So, you’ve received a rental application from a convicted offender, and now you’re unsure of what to do. Do you deny their application? Can you deny their application at all? Renting to registered sex offenders can feel like treading on thin ice, so we’ve put together this guide to help you out.
Who is Considered a Registered Sex Offender?
A sex offender is an individual who was once convicted for a crime involving sexual conduct. In the United States, sex offenders are recorded in the Sexual Offender Registry once they have served their sentences. Hence, the term “registered sex offender”.
Sex crimes can vary according to their severity, which is why offenses have “levels” that determine how long a person’s name should be registered on the Sexual Offender Registry. It’s worth mentioning that states, including Florida, are allowed to create their own rules regarding the placement of offenders in the registry.
Since you’ll likely have to look into the crime your potential tenant committed, here’s are the different categories of offenders in South Florida:
- Level One: These offenders are unlikely to re-offend, but they must report to the Sheriff’s Department twice a year until their registration ends.
- Level Two: These offenders are likely to re-offend due to the crime committed and their past criminal acts. They must report to the Sheriff’s Department four times a year until their registration ends.
- Level Three: Sexual predators are those that have been convicted of crimes involving an underage individual. They are prohibited from living near schools, daycare centers, and so on.
Can Sex Offenders Live in Florida?
Yes, however, they can’t live anywhere they want. In Florida, a sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school, park, playground, or other areas where kids are likely to spend their time. So, if your rental property is a short distance from a daycare center, the offender wouldn’t be able to live there even if they wanted to. You can deny their rental application for that reason alone.
Keep in mind that municipalities can create stricter restrictions, so consider asking your luxury home management company before renting to an offender.
Do You Have to Rent to a Convicted Sex Offender?
Understandably, you’re tempted to deny the rental application for their offense alone. Be careful, as this could get you in trouble. The law does not allow landlords to use a person’s registration in the Sexual Offender Registry as an excuse to deny them housing. A landlord that uses the registry as a reason to deny housing could be sued for damages.
However, as a landlord, you also have a responsibility to your tenants and neighbors. If you think that renting to an offender constitutes a risk, you can deny their rental application. For instance, if you’re renting out your multi-family property to tenants with kids, consider denying the applicant as it is too risky.
To determine the degree of risk, work with local authorities. They can assess the risk and determine if your rental property is the ideal one for them at this time. You’d probably be able to deny an applicant with a recent offense from renting out a unit in your condominium since there are lots of children. You’d have a harder time turning down an applicant with a fifteen-year-old conviction from renting out your single-family home.
With regard to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), there’s no reason to worry. Although it’s true that landlords shouldn’t discriminate according to the protected classes (e.g. race, color, religion, etc.), the FHA does not cover convicted offenders.
Can You Evict a Convicted Sex Offender?
If the tenant did not disclose their conviction in the rental application, the landlord can evict them upon finding out. Generally, landlords that discover fraud in the rental application have the right to evict their tenants. If your rental property is a short distance from schools, daycare centers, and so on, you have even more reason to evict them.
Do You Need to Tell Your Neighbors That Your Tenant is a Registered Sex Offender?
In some states, the landlord has the legal obligation to determine if their tenant is in the registry. Failure to do so could result in a fine. However, since the Sexual Offender Registry is public knowledge, the landlord doesn’t have the duty to tell the other residents about the tenant. It would still be best to consult a lawyer or property management expert regarding your state laws.
How Can You Check if an Applicant is a Sex Offender?
Add a check box to your rental application where they can indicate whether or not they’ve been convicted. If they answer “no”, double-check by looking them up on the National Sex Offender Search. If you find out that they lied, you can deny their application. If they answer “yes”, keep in mind that you can’t deny them if they aren’t a risk.
What Else Do You Need To Do?
If you’ve received a rental application from a convicted offender, you’re probably wondering what you need to do. Do you need to tell the police?
Do you need to tell your tenants? Do you need to call the Department of Justice? There’s no single answer to this as the laws aren’t the same in each state. Again, it would be best to get a lawyer or property management company.
In general, here’s what you can do if you get an application from a registered offender:
- Contact Local Authorities. Convicted offenders need to tell the local authorities if they’re moving. Contact the authorities to confirm if they’ve reported their move.
- Check the Registry. Anyone can access the registry, so even if your applicant claims they haven’t been convicted, make sure to double-check.
- Hire a Property Management Company. The resources online won’t always apply to your situation. For a “one-stop-shop”, hire a property management company that is well-versed in your state and county’s laws.
If you aren’t sure what to do when it comes to renting to a registered offender, you should consider hiring a South Florida property management company, preferably one that has an in-house legal team.
For property management services that won’t let you down, Luxury Property Care is your top choice. Our screening process has helped us secure responsible tenants for hundreds of clients across South Florida — including yours if you’ll let us!