Picking the right tenant for your rental often involves a tenant who is up front, and honest. This week a landlord asks, “Is an old drug conviction a big deal?” Each week veteran landlord and property manager Hank Rossi answers questions from other landlords and property managers around the country about their rentals.

Dear Landlord Hank:

We have a potential tenant with a meth conviction from five years ago who says he is now clean and more mature. He told us right up front we would see his old drug conviction when we checked his criminal record, and that he has not done any drugs since his conviction. Has a good job, good pay and always paid his previous landlord on time. Do you think we should rent to him?

-Landlord Sam

Dear Landlord Sam:

This is a tough one.

Has this potential tenant good references for the last 5 years from more than one landlord and employment reference?

Since this is a conviction and not just an arrest, this applicant could be denied as criminals are not a protected class under Fair Housing law (no legal advice here!).

But people do change and if this person really has moved on from his criminal past, and you can verify that without a doubt, you could give this applicant a chance despite the drug conviction.

I’d want to know if the meth conviction was for using the drug, manufacture of the drug, distributing the drug or any combination of these.

Be fair with this applicant and treat this applicant and all applicants the same.

If you do accept this person as a tenant, he can’t have any special treatment like frequent inspections, etc.

He’d need to be treated like everyone else.

Good luck!


Hank Ross

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See some of Hank’s recent posts here:

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Dear Landlord Hank: Should I Give A Tenant More Time To Pay?

About the author Landlord Hank:

“I started in real estate as a child watching my father take care of our family rentals- maintenance, tenant relations, etc , in small town Ohio. As I grew, I was occasionally Dad’s assistant. In the mid-90s I decided to get into the rental business on my own, as a sideline. In 2001, I retired from my profession and only managed my own investments, for the next 10 years. Six years ago, my sister, working as a rental agent/property manager in Sarasota, Florida convinced me to try the Florida lifestyle. I gave it a try and never looked back. A few years ago we started our own real estate brokerage. We focus on property management and leasing. I continue to manage my real estate portfolio here in Florida and Atlanta. “ Visit Hank’s website here.

Dear Landlord Hank: Is An Old Drug Conviction A Big Deal?

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