You like to think you can trust your neighbors, but some of the people living around you may have a less than savory past. Thanks to sex offender registries, you can find out if someone living near you is a sex offender or sexual predator. If you’re a landlord and you learn you’re renting to a sexual predator, your first instinct may to get that person off your property and out of your life. But you can’t simply toss someone out because of something you don’t like. You have to balance your tenant’s rights with the need to protect yourself and your neighbors.
Sexual Predators and Offenders
A sex offender is someone who has been convicted of, or who has pleaded guilty to a sexual act with a minor. A sexual predator is someone who has been convicted of a first degree felony or two second-degree felony, sex crime, such as rape or child molestation. Convicted sex offenders and sexual predators in every state must register with local law enforcement, and states maintain a database with information about the location of each of these people. Anyone can access this information.
Local laws vary widely on how they handle sexual predators and offenders.Georgia, for instance, prohibits sexual predators or offenders from living within a specified distance of schools, daycare centers, parks or playgrounds. California, Ohio and Michigan have similar residency restrictions. If your property falls within these boundaries, a sexual predator or offender is breaking the law by living there, so you can legally ask him to leave. Other municipalities, such as Seminole County in Florida, forbid sexual predators or offenders from living within the county. A person who violates this law is subject to fines and other penalties, so pointing this out to the renter should be all you need to make him move.
A lease is a legally binding contract. If you discover that your renter is a sexual predator after you’ve signed the lease, and there are no local laws that would prevent the renter from living in the area, you could be considered in breach of contract if you try to kick the renter out. The renter could sue for damages and charge you with discrimination. Some states’s laws that deal with sex offender registration specifically state that landlords can’t use the information from the sex offender registry to discriminate against tenants.
State laws may also address the landlord’s obligation when it comes to information about sex offenders. In Seminole County, Florida, where the law prohibits sex offenders from living in the county, landlords are required to determine if their renters are on the sex offender registry. If you fail to do so, you could be fined for renting to a sex offender. If your rental application asks about felony convictions and the renter fails to reveal his conviction for a sex crime, the fact that he lied on the rental application could be grounds for eviction.California does not require landlords to research the sex offender registry for tenants' names, but does require the lease agreement to inform tenants that they may search the sex offender registry for their neighbors' names.
Before you evict a sexual predator from your property, consult a lawyer. In some cases, the best way to handle the situation is to wait until the lease expires and then decline to renew it. You aren’t required to reveal your knowledge of a tenant’s status as a sexual predator to other tenants or your neighbors, so you’ll want to keep quiet while you’re waiting for the lease to expire.
- Broward Sheriff’s Office: What Is the Difference Between A Sexual Offender and a Predator?
- Law Offices of Heist, Weiss and Wolk, P.A.: New Sexual Predator and Offender Ordinances and How They Affect the Landlord
- Legal Match: Landlord’s Duties Regarding Convicted Sex Offenders
- Wall Street Journal: After Prison, Few Places for Sex Offenders to Live
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.