Is it legal if I was approved for an apartment lease but then later denied due to felony?

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Is it legal if I was approved for an apartment lease but then later denied due to felony?

I first applied for an apartment in a complex and did online application. I checked off that yes I was convicted of a crime and after it went through the review process with the director, I was approved. I then gave them income statements and they checked my credit. Since my credit was not great I just had to provide first last and security. They gave me an official approval letter with the apartment number and move in date. All I needed to do was to pay the total so I could get the keys. However, almost 2 weeks later, I got a letter saying that they made an error and had to revoke the approval due to me checking off conviction and that they needed to conduct a CORI. I’m selling my home next week and I have 3 young children. Can they legally do that after everything was all set for me to move in?

Asked on October 14, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Yes, they can do this, unfortunately, IF you did not have a signed lease. The law allows landlords to use a conviction or criminal record as grounds to not rent to someone, and they can do this even after first telling her that she is approved--that is, they can withdraw the approval.
A lease, however, is a contract; contracts are enforceable. If you have a signed lease, they must honor it; if they don't, you could sue them in court for "breach of contract" to force them to do so or for montary compensation (e.g. any costs you incur due to the denial). So you have a signed lease, you have an enforceable right to the apartment.


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