Do I have to rent to a sex offender? Accurate Landlord Tenant Advice!

Our society is terrified of sex offenders, and has enacted many laws including requiring registration and restricting where they can be and live. In fact, there are many more laws restricting sex offenders than any other type of criminal – even murderers.

Currently, there are about 747,000 registered sex offenders in the United States. In order to comply with the terms of registration and avoid re-arrest, they must have a permanent address.

Many state and local governments have imposed restrictions on where registered sex offenders can live after their release from direct supervision (jail, halfway house or probation). Generally, they are not allowed to live within a designated distance of schools, daycare centers, parks and other places where children congregate.

Some cities have created tiny “pocket parks” throughout their areas in order to effectively ban registered sex offenders from living anywhere within their boundaries. Once sex offenders lose stable housing, many become homeless and in violation of registration. They become not only more difficult to track, but also more likely to re-offend.

Such restrictions are being challenged. In August 2013, a federal judge in Colorado struck down a city ordinance that tightly restricted where registered sex offenders can reside, ruling that it conflicts with a state law requiring the reintegration of parolees into society. Under the ordinance, 99 percent of the city was essentially off-limits.

Must a Landlord Rent to a Sex Offender?
In most states, a landlord can rent to a registered sex offender as long as the offender does not pose a recognizable risk to other tenants. A recognizable risk might be renting to a known pedophile in a building with many children. It would not be a risk to rent to a pedophile in a building with all adults. A landlord is under no duty to check the registry prior to renting.
Being a registered sex offender is not covered by anti-discrimination laws. It is not a protected characteristic. In most states, a landlord can refuse to rent to an offender who reveals his or her status in an application or if the offender’s status is uncovered in a criminal background check. Click here to order a background check on a prospective tenant.

In some states, such as California, this information cannot come from the sex offender registry database. It must come from some other source. Be sure to check the law in your state. You may order criminal record reports and background checks through

If a landlord discovers that he or she already has a sex offender for a tenant, eviction can be difficult. A month-to-month tenant can be let go with due notice. A tenant with a lease can be evicted if he or she lied about sex offender status on an application, especially if the residence falls within an area restricted to sex offenders. Otherwise, absent an issue, the offender must be treated like any other tenant until the lease renews.

Must a Landlord Notify Other Tenants?

Usually, a landlord is under no obligation to notify other tenants of the presence of a sex offender. In most states, a lease agreement must include information about the state’s sex offender registry, which allows a potential tenant to do a search on his or her own prior to signing the lease and moving into the building or area. In all states, law enforcement is required to notify residents of sex offenders.

Notification is the responsibility of the tenant and law enforcement, not the landlord.

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