Can a DUI Affect Your Apartment Hunt?

When you’re hunting for apartments, your potential new landlords won’t just check your income and credit score. Chances are they’ll also run a background check on you, a process that involves accessing your criminal record. Often, felonies dissuade landlords from accepting your applications, but misdemeanors such as DUIs can be less cut-and-dry when it comes to approval or disapproval. Nevertheless, if you have a DUI – especially a less common felony DUI – on your criminal record, it’s likely to affect your apartment hunt. Here’s how.

Does a DUI prevent you from renting an apartment?

No, a DUI popping up on your background check doesn’t automatically disqualify you from renting an apartment. However, a DUI on your criminal record can pose significant obstacles toward successfully finding that new apartment you’re seeking.

If your DUI is a misdemeanor, you might encounter fewer obstacles in your apartment hunt than if your DUI is a felony. Since DUIs charged as felonies are less common in certain states than others, your DUI registering as a felony may impact your application more or less strongly depending on where you live and where you’re applying. More importantly, DUI felonies often indicate a more extensive criminal record than just a DUI, and the more items that appear on your criminal record, the less likely prospective landlords are to rent to you.

How can I address my DUI with prospective landlords?

As you apply for apartments, you’ll have to address the DUI on your record at some point. That’s why you should tell prospective landlords about your DUI before they begin their background checks. A DUI will reflect much more poorly on you if it comes as a surprise to the people processing your rental applications, so gently warning prospective landlords about your DUI might increase your chances of getting approved for an apartment.

Telling your landlord about your DUI in advance isn’t just good for avoiding surprises. It can offer you the chance to explain the circumstances of your DUI and show that it doesn’t define you. If your DUI led you down a path of self-improvement and genuine correction – whether through a stint in rehab, a transformative jail or prison experience, or something else – explain this to your prospective landlords.

If you’re worried that a story you can’t prove doesn’t offer enough to convince prospective landlords that you’re a trustworthy tenant, you can use your criminal record to back up your claims. If your DUI was several years ago and you’ve committed no offenses since then, prospective landlords may be more likely to consider your application. You can also show a stable, meaningful employment history to attest to your dependability in the wake of a DUI.

What if my DUI is proving impossible to work around?

It should come as no surprise that a DUI on your record will make your apartment hunt more challenging. However, if your DUI is a misdemeanor rather than a felony, you can apply to have it expunged from your criminal record. To head down this route, contact your lawyer, who can handle much of the work required on your behalf. Keep in mind that applying to have your DUI expunged does not guarantee this outcome, and even if your application is ultimately successful, it might be a while until your DUI is expunged. 

If all else fails, then if possible, you might do best to wait a bit until moving apartments. If you do wind up being approved for an apartment, don’t consider yourself off the hook – your landlord won’t have forgotten that you have a DUI. Make sure to take extra care of your apartment, respect your neighbors, and pay your bills on time to show your landlord that you’re grateful they took a chance on you. If you prove to be a reliable tenant, you should have no problem settling into your new apartment for the long run.

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