One of my associates has recently joined the boring world of land brokerage and has been training for a few months. A couple of days ago she contacted me to notify me of this public forum for the real estate industry called “Bigger Pockets”. A discussion began on October 9th entitled “Inheriting a ‘sexually violent predator against children’ tenant” was stated by a woman buying an apartment complex in IN. A picture with the “#IBelieveSurvivors” slogan was found on her social media page along with links to MeToo and abuse stories. It is obvious she is no friend to registered persons. [At the time of this writing, the link to the discussion is at https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/624595-inheriting-a-sexually-violent-predator-against-children-tenant].
Brook from IN, the Original Poster, writes, “We had our offer accepted on our first rental property and after looking up the current tenants, we’ve got a convicted, registered sexually violent predator against children in this triplex. Repeat offender. Anyone dealt with this before? There are currently no children in the other two units but kids living within 20′ of his door at the neighboring property. His existing lease is not up until Aug of 19 and he’s been in the property 5 years. I am sick about this. Obviously I don’t want to renew his lease but any options before that?” She added later in the thread, “We have little kids of our own and I would be the primary property manager so this is not something we take lightly. I’m completely disgusted and frightened by the whole situation.”
There were numerous responses to this topic, and it is important to look at every response. Nearly every response was negative and some were outright offensive. But it is important to share every post, even the redundant ones, since information posted on websites tend to disappear after a while. This gives us a glimpse into the mindset of those who refuse to rent to registered persons. [Some comments were edited for readability, as some of the comments were poorly written and full of blatant grammatical errors.]
Towards the end of the thread, Ms. Brook had claimed she found out the registrant was out of prison only 1.5 years, not 5 years, and that the person had two convictions, using the “revelations” to back out of the deal. It was for the best she backed out because it was obvious she was receiving bad advice from numerous people commenting on the thread. Remember, she was not moving in someone new, she was becoming the new landlord of an existing tenant. She had the potential to destroy the life of someone on the registry because of her personal animus against registered persons.
One bit of advice that was written by many respondents to the thread was something I had experienced personally. In 2006, I had moved into a new apartment. A few years later, a new owner tried a similar tactic against me, suggested in this thread – claim the lease needs to end for maintenance reasons. I forced them to back down under threat of lawsuit. (I was bluffing, I had no attorney, but they didn’t want to take a chance.)
Other tactics that were mentioned here included offering “cash for keys” or even offering to buy out the lease. Another suggested increasing the tenant’s rent to collect more money from him. There were different opinions on when to let the tenant know the lease wasn’t going to be renewed; some suggesting telling this person now with 10 months left and a couple implied they should wait until the last minute. The animus against registered persons and the blatant discrimination posted in this thread is appalling. To top it off, some of the landlords were fully aware that registered persons have no rights and flaunt their blatant discrimination policies.
The bottom line is if you rent your property, be aware that your landlord can sell out to another real estate purchaser and your next landlord could attempt to throw you out or look for an excuse to get rid of you. This is another reason to always have a plan in place in case of any kind of upheaval in your life, be it from a natural disaster or just from some misinformed realtor buying the property you are renting; this preparation should include saving money to cover rent and deposit at a new place as well as finding out which charities offer any kind of assistance in your area. It is important to find out what rights you DO have as a tenant.
The actual comments from the thread are listed below. Many posters made similar comments. Some comments are derogatory and full of misinformation.
****IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ THE COMMENTS STOP HERE****
Kyle from TX replied, “Approach the listing agent about it. See if you can get a reduction in the contract price. If you can and you close. Off[er] the tenant $ to move so you can “fix up the unit.’”
Dennis from PA wrote, “Well Perverts aren’t a protected class. Buy the property and find a way to evict him or refuse to close till owner reaches a deal to get him out of there.” Bobby from IN wrote, “Check the registry to see what his limitations are in your area. As a former law enforcement officer there may be something there that will allow you legally to end his lease. For instance, so far from a school, close to children that are not of his bloodline, etc.” (This alleged former law enforcement agent apparently does not realize the Indiana’s residency laws only apply to paroled registrants, according to Indiana Code §11-13-3-4.)
Jill from OH wrote, “It’s only ten months. He’s been there 5 years. The people in the neighborhood were notified. I wouldn’t ditch an otherwise good deal on a property. Just don’t renew his lease when it comes due.”
Chris from NY replied, “I’d assume he won’t move out unless you offer him a TON of money to do so. Finding someone to rent to him is probably very difficult so he isn’t going to move for $500. If the neighbors know about him, I would just ride out the lease and not renew when the time comes.”
Nathan from WY replied, “Leave him in place unless you have a justifiable reason to terminate the lease early. Notify him as soon as possible that you will not renew his lease because you are planning ‘improvements’ to the unit. Of course, the improvement is getting rid of the sex offender. If he offers to leave early, let him go without penalty and move on.”
Linda from VA wrote, “He’s a sex offender– they are out there, it sounds like a low income area, so that’s where they normally go. Have you checked out how many others are in the area, there might be a few more nearby. People do bad things. Some people are real jerks… Don’t let emotions get involved and back out of what sounds like a great deal. I would absolutely go through with the deal, and go talk with him, and tell him you have plans to renovate his unit. Offer to refund his security deposit, and give a positive reference (assuming he’s always paid on time) and throw maybe $500 more at him in a cash for keys deal. Tell him you plan to renovate his unit and won’t be renewing in 10-months, –so it’d be heavily in his best interest to leave now vs. 10 months. Most people don’t want to move because they know they’ll have to pay the security deposit + rent, and that’s a lot to low income tenants— make it an easy transition! Don’t make this a bigger deal than it is– if you want him out, make it the best time to leave now– and let him know you aren’t renewing.”
Jim from NE decided to play Devil’s Advocate, adding, “I’m going to take the opposite approach as others said, though I don’t disagree with what they said either. Looking from the flip side, he needs a place to live. He has proven to be a non-issue to his landlord for the last 5 yrs. Your service you provide is housing and that’s it. You are not buddy-buddy with this person and you shouldn’t with any of your tenants. I would bet he would be willing to pay more for the place because of his past and knows how hard it is to find a place. So keep him around, raise his rent by $25 or $50 or so and put him month to month. If he gives you problems then boot him. In 10 months you will find out if his problematic or not. I would research his cases to understand what he ‘specifically’ did. He has also proven to be a long term tenant. On the flip side it may be hard to rent out the other units and you may need to disclose (not sure on this as its public knowledge) this to future tenants.”
David from FL & NC, replied, “Keep it simple. Buy the property; honor the existing lease, and don’t renew. Don’t discuss the ‘situation’ with anyone after you buy.” Joe S. from SD added, “If you are investing in C or D neighborhoods, this type of thing will be common. If he was a convicted murder, violent assault offender, thief, con man, you would never even know, because there is no registry for those crimes. After 5 years, there is low risk for the next ten months. If this situation freaks you out, I assure you there is FAR WORSE ahead. I have looked tenants in the eye and told them to GTFO of my property, no notice, no cash for keys. That is how you deal with some people in some situations. They are tough and you need to be tougher. If you can’t deal with this, you should re-evaluate if you should be managing your own properties or even buying them in the first place. Simple solution here is non-renewal. Tell him day one that he needs to move next August or sooner. If you re-rent the other two units, make sure to disclose his situation, so they are not surprised. If you can’t stomach it, just use the inspection or financing clause to back out now. They can’t make you close on the property. Worst case they take your earnest money.”
Dan H. from CA replied, “Our primary area I classify as a C to C+ area (We have some units in better areas but most of our units are in a working class area with most structures built from the 1950s to the 1980s). My background check includes a criminal records check. It is a small additional fee over the credit check fee. I think it is important, especially in my multiplexes. I want to provide the tenants a safe place realizing I cannot control everything. But I can control that the tenants have no violent crimes on their criminal report. I do not think managing in a C area necessitates dealing with criminals. Proper screening, at a minimum, reduces the chance of dealing with violent criminals. I do agree that non-renewal is the ‘simple solution’ but I would treat it as plan B. I would attempt to negotiate cash for keys. I would be careful how you “disclose the situation” but would find a way to disclose the situation to new tenants (maybe provide them a link to the sex offender registry and tell them it is important that they verify the area is safe). The disclosure is likely to result in making the other units harder to rent and may affect the rent price. So cash for keys could be a good investment as it could result in obtaining market rents versus below market rents with the disclosure. I do not know what the unit rents for but even a couple rent for the keys could be worth it.”
Dan then added in a second post in response to the “Devil’s Advocate” post, “He does need a place to live but it would not be in my multiplex. I believe I have a responsibility to provide the tenants a safe home. If I knew I had a violent sex offender as a tenant, I would feel that I have not provided the safe home to my other tenants. It is my opinion that a violent sex offender should not be in a multiplex, near schools, children clubs/sports (Y, Little League, soccer fields, etc.), etc. I think it would be best if they lived in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, but that is not likely to happen. However, they would not be living in my units. I do not care if he were willing to double his rent. Not worth it! If you accepted an additional $50/month rent for the sex offender to continue to live in your unit, how would you feel if he sexually assaulted someone? No way, there is not enough money for me to want to deal with that. I do not need the money that bad!”
Joel F. from IN responded, “Aug of 19 sucks. Obviously, if you just hang on until that point you can provide them with a notice in advance that you won’t be renewing the lease. I typically like to do at least 60-day notice and let them know I am trying to make the process smoother and don’t want to put them in a pinch. I never want to really make someone mad and have concrete poured down the drain. Another thing you can do is once you purchase you can let them know that you will be remodeling the unit when their lease is up and if they want to move sooner you will provide them with some cash to move quicker. The concern with that is if they don’t want to leave early they may become hell tenants for the next 10 months. Generally, that’s why I wait until about 60 days to limit my pain and try to play the “I am being more generous than the law requires” which helps to buy a few sympathy points.”
Ned J. from CA added, “As the new landlord I would pay to have my standard screening done on all the current tenants….I would pay the fees to do it. I’m not going to walk away from a good deal when there is a reasonable solution to the issue at hand. If any of the current tenants don’t meet my criteria, then I would not renew their lease when it comes up. If the unit was vacant and I wouldn’t rent to them, then I’m not going to keep them there when the lease comes up to renew. This is especially the case when it comes to violent criminals. Have horrible credit but have a great history of paying the rent, then maybe I make an exception… significant criminal record does not get a “pass”… you’re gone. The fact that its 10 months would make me lean towards setting the playing field but ride it out with this guy….run the background checks etc. on ALL the current tenants….then come up with the plan on when to notify anyone that you are not renewing. Cover yourself legally by making it a uniform ‘reassessment’ of ALL your tenants and make uniform decisions based on a written criteria that you use for ALL the tenants…not just him. No way in hell am I letting this guy stay. I don’t care how much $$ I may lose with some turnover or cash for keys etc, I could never live with myself if something happened. Yes they all need somewhere to live….it’s just not in one of my units….not worth it. I would however lean on the seller more to accommodate this issue in the price….. be prepared to away….”
Chris K. from PA warned readers, “Not an expert on this topic by any means, but I do believe some states have some restriction on how landlords can use this information (and what they need to do). For example, I’m pretty sure California has (or had) some law stating that you cannot deny rental solely based on the fact that they might be on a registered sex offenders list. Something like that. And then remember that HUD published the now infamous FHA memo saying landlords should not use criminal convictions as the only reason to reject their application. Depending on whether this person could qualify under a protected class, you may have to be slightly careful.”
Karen M. (Moderator for the forums) from OR added the following misinformed statements, “If there are children living within 20′ of where he is, he’s probably in violation of parole, or other laws. Ask the local authorities how you can find out if he’s on parole, and what the laws and regulations regarding registering as a sexual predator are. I would without question evict him. Money isn’t everything, and the community has a responsibility to protect children. Being a violent, sexual predator, isn’t like stealing from the local store. The justifiable reason to get rid of him is HE’S A VIOLENT SEXUAL PREDATOR THAT VIOLATES CHILDREN! Personally, I refused to lease office space to a counseling office that’s clients were violent sexual predators. I would never risk the chance of making it easy for someone like that to prey on another. There were young women working in other offices that could be working late at night. You aren’t allowed to inform others in the area of the fact that the counselor’s clients were sexual predators so that they could be informed, and on guard, as it’s against the law. It’s important to understand, there is no cure for sexual deviants. Counselors believe that it is “victimless crime”, nevermind a child cannot defend themselves. It’s not a disease; it’s a CRIME that preys on the most vulnerable. So if you wouldn’t allow a known killer in your unit, why would you even consider a sexual predator?” [https://www.facebook.com/karen.margrave] “
John Clark” writes, “Go to a lawyer and find out what a landlord’s liability is to third parties should a known, repeat, sex offender tenant commit another offense on the landlord’s property. That in turn may give you an out for the purchase of the property. (If, for example, it was peddled to you as having no restrictions on leasing, but now you can’t rent to families with kids because they’d be too close to Chester the Molester). I dunno. Talk to the lawyers.”
Vinay H. from MA wrote possibly the only sensible response, adding, “Before we get pitchforks and lynch mobs, possibly there is a need to talk to the local police to find out about the situation. Maybe he committed the crime 20 years ago and is now reformed. Find out the details from him and from the police. People deserve a second chance, and that’s a reason why he was not given the death penalty. If we all chase him out and make him jobless and homeless, is this a better situation for society? Obviously this is a major headache, but if you can’t stomach it, better back out of the deal. Even if he turns out to be the best tenant ever, his presence will limit your potential tenants for the other units. I think there are 2 options – either get more info and develop a strategy or back out of deal.”
Cara L. from AZ writes, “There are rules established that he has to follow. I would start by looking those up. Any violations should be reported. Is your unit near a school? There is most likely a rule about how close he can live to a school. Find out what the rule is about other units having children. Is he grandfathered in if he is there first? Also, establish your policies for Tenants. Do you take felons? If not, then come renewal time, it is a simple decline based on your rental policies. Offering him money to move may work, but he may not take it if his options are limited. The goal is to remain respectful and not harass him while you are trying to manage his tenancy. While he is not a protected class as a convicted predator, he still has the right to peaceful habitation.” “
John Clark” wrote a disgusting response to Vinay’s post, adding, “You missed the words “repeat offender.” If he offended 20 years ago and is still on the list, that tells me the crimeS were heinous. Check out landlord’s liability and whether an undisclosed defect/risk in the purchase contract, or tenant estoppel letters, or whatever, let the buyer out. What part of c-o-n-s-u-l-t t-w-o l-a-w-y-e-r-s, one each in criminal/tort law and the other in property law, does anyone on this forum not understand?” He believes that if a person committed an offense 20 years ago, he must be a repeat offender. This is proof people misunderstand the registry information.
Ali B. from CA wrote a great post, adding, “I might be kind of naively biased on this because I volunteer in prisons regularly, mostly with men, and I’ve worked with a ton of criminals, including those of sex crimes. Personally, I’d be more concerned with how he is as a tenant. Does he pay on time every month? Is he pleasant to deal with? Other than him being a sex offender, what are his other traits as a tenant? If he’s been in there for 5 years, he obviously hasn’t recommitted recently. And if he does go to jail, how does that work if he’s no longer present to pay rent? (I actually don’t know that answer). I think the focus needs to be on the facts and the logistics, not on personal opinion about him or his crime(s). So, what are the facts and logistics about this? What are the specific risks in having him there? If people’s posts about getting him out are just because they think he’s a pervert or a bad human being, that’s just nauseating. I don’t condone his crimes, but if he’s okay and fully functioning right now and paying rent and maybe even a nice guy, then kicking him out would just be ridiculous. Unless there’s some logistical problem(s) that someone can specify.”
Thomas S. added, “As others have noted, he has been a tenant for 5 years. Leave him alone and give notice prior to the end of his lease that you will not be renewing. It isn’t a problem until it’s a problem and even then it is not your problem since you did not initially rent to him.”
David H. from LA replied, “In my opinion a person that rapes or molests an innocent child, should be living in a place 6 feet under. Some things are way more important than money, and this is one. I would either get out of the deal or might just go through with the deal only cause I would make it my personal mission to get rid of this guy.
Patrick S. from TX replied, “To me, it depends on the location and the type of place you have. I think it’s ok to think that it’s an awful heinous crime, and still rent to them if it’s an appropriate place (no kids, schools, parks, etc.) Kicking him out and having him move a block away doesn’t necessarily make anyone safer, or mean that you do or don’t care about kids. That said, I’m sure these folks find it extremely difficult to find places to rent, so he might be a good grateful tenant if you let him stay.” “
Scott Baker” replied, “People are being a bit hysterical about this, and if it’s an otherwise good deal it’s not worth throwing away over. If your plan is to upgrade the triplex and get a better caliber of tenant in there, well, a registered sex offender might scare folks away if they hear about it. I agree with the idea of letting him know sooner rather than later he’s going to be out at the end of his lease for ‘renovations’, and if he needs to break the lease to find new housing, well, you’re such nice people you’d let him do it.”
Michael B. from TX replied, “I know I am old, bitter, and jaded. BUT I really do not understand the basic premise that cause people to think small distant requirements make people safe from people who have committed crimes. First. He has legs. He can walk. Second. He probably has a car. He can drive. Of course, I do not even believe in sex offender registries because we do not have murderer registries or robber registries. For those that have assumed he is violating some kind of rule or law because he lives there, it is extremely unlikely. People should also be aware convicted felons live in all kinds of neighborhoods.
Daniel R. from TN replied, “I can actually tell you that statistical facts show sex offenders to be one of the lowest percentages of recidivists of any crime. My uncle has worked in the court systems and in general as a psychologist with sex offenders and people with sexually deviant behaviors most of his career (30+ years). He is very highly regarded in this field. Now, obviously, this person DID re-offend and it was a violent act as well, and that is sad, awful, etc. 100%. I truly hope the victim is alright. But, they do not wish to stay in prison because they “know” they will do it again when they get out. Prison is the worst place for a sex offender. Also, most sex offenders are one time offenders with no actual sexual attraction to children in general and these days a large number of sex offenders did not even offend a minor. The more they are alienated from society the more likely they are to re-offend again because anyone that is alienated does not fare well in the long run and their “demons” have a much higher chance of showing their faces again. I know this part of my response will be pretty unpopular but I just wanted to put it out there. But, on the business end of things, I can 100% understand not renting to the person because it makes your multi-plex much less attractive to potential/current tenants in the other units. So I do understand now wanting them to be a tenant and also the fear for the OP in regards to having her daughter with her when performing repairs. I just wanted to make sure to correct that specific statement. Sadly, that professor was grossly inaccurate in their statement.”
Derek W. Logue, Reform Advocate www.oncefallen.com