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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Franklin Rental Property ApplicationTenant screening is a very essential element of possessing fruitful Franklin rental properties. But, in truth, it isn’t often easy nor effortless. There are countless ways that your screening process could run afoul of federal or local landlord laws. These laws are designed to help reduce potential discrimination against tenants, laws that protect them right from the very first conversation. This is exactly why it is so critical to be certain that your tenant screening is not only thorough but however, that it also doesn’t cross the line into discrimination. Just by avoiding discrimination, you, actually, not only avoid potentially expensive lawsuits, but you furthermore make sure that your process is fair and in compliance with all relevant laws.

In regards to federal laws about discrimination, the most relevant one for property owners to completely understand is the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). This set of laws covers every aspect of tenant-landlord interaction. The FHA does not allow property owners to refuse to rent a property based on a tenant’s race, religion, family status, or disability – to identify a few. The FHA also prohibits landlords from telling a tenant a rental house is unavailable when it is, or to require certain tenants to meet a more strict set of criteria. This involves requiring a higher security deposit from certain tenants or evicting someone for any reason that would not cause you to remove a different tenant.

It’s definitely important to have a clear set of guidelines for every interaction you have with potential or current tenants. This begins with the very first conversation you have with someone looking to apply for your rental property. In that first conversation, you should make it a point to describe your approval criteria and expectations.

On the other hand, you should be cautious not to ask questions that might force your tenant to disclose protected information. Queries about heredity, race, or national origin are typically inappropriate during tenant screening. The same applies to questions about disability or familial status. Such challenges should not be seen on your application documents and should be avoided in conversation with them unless the tenant brings that up.

It’s, in the same way, it’s vital to examine your screening process for other probable forms of discrimination. For instance, landlords should accept applications and screen tenants in the order in which they are received. Getting and then sitting on an application because you’re waiting for someone else to apply is a form of discrimination. If an applicant has paid the required fees and their application documents are complete, you should move on with the screening process for that applicant. Disqualifying an applicant based on pre-determined criteria, such as their credit score or poor references, is okay. But making an applicant wait for an answer while you desire for somebody else to qualify isn’t.

One last note, every property owner should have a thorough understanding of the laws in their area with regards to renting to people with a criminal record. The FHA leaves property owners with a surprising amount of leeway when disqualifying a tenant based on their criminal record. Be that as it may, not all criminal offenses are considered sufficient reason to refuse to rent to anyone. Local laws may differ from federal, which makes it very significant to know what they are and fit your tenant screening process in a similar manner.

By knowing the laws in your area, you can ensure that your tenant screening process isn’t discriminating against any certain applicant. In this fashion, you can keep yourself free of legal trouble and significantly reduce potential discrimination lawsuits.

Need some property management advice, or maybe you’d rather have someone else take care of it for you? Give Real Property Management Indianapolis Edge a call at 317-420-8500 or contact us online today!

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.