A simple criminal record check is easy to conduct in South Carolina. For those who have committed felonies or misdemeanors, these checks can quickly limit job and living opportunities.

If you’re being denied a lease for the perfect place because of an old charge on your record, is there anything you can do?

Is it discrimination?

This is a tricky area of the law. The Federal Fair Housing Act states landlords cannot deny housing to people purely on the basis of having a criminal background. However, landlords can have policies in place that state they reserve the right to refuse housing to people with specific crimes in their pasts. These are generally violent crimes, such as assault. The reason for this is that landlords want to ensure the rest of their tenants remain safe while on the premises. 

Should people with criminal backgrounds talk to the landlord?

Some people may feel compelled to lie on an application about their criminal backgrounds. However, it is better to get ahead of the issue because the landlord is likely to find out one way or the other. For example, the applicant may point out the offense occurred over 10 years ago, and he or she has maintained a stellar record since. Providing references, such as a boss or pastor, who can speak to the character of the applicant may also help. 

What about expungement?

Expungement is often possible, but depending on the crime, a person may not be able to expunge it until a set period has passed. Once that period has come and gone, it is a good idea to pursue expungement in earnest. It can take a while to remove the offense from a record, so it will not help people to apply when they will require a place to rent next week.