rental fair housing lawsIf you’re a property manager or landlord, it’s logical that you want to select the best renters to fill your vacancies, but how are you separating good renters from the bad ones?

Screening tenants with credit and background checks is your most reliable and legal method of selecting tenants. Screening with your personal opinions is not.

As a result of the Civil Rights Act, everyone has the equal right to housing, no matter their gender, race, or religion. Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, sexual orientation, age, familial status, and disabled people were added to the list. In short, you can’t target or exclude any of these groups from leasing your rental property.

Know the fair housing laws in your state so you won’t be slapped with a fair housing violation later on. Here are practices that are prohibited by federal law due to fair housing laws, but check the laws in your area since the majority of states have specific fair housing laws.

Targeting your ads towards a certain group

Don’t want to deal with families or renters with disabilities? Too bad. Discriminatory advertising that’s aimed at a specific group is illegal. The next time you think about writing a “no students,” “great for students,” or “no kids” stipulation in your listing, leave it out. With those words, you’re excluding (or aiming) your property towards a certain renter demographic.

Refusing to show your property as a result of discrimination

Telling a group of interested renters the property is “not available” when it actually is available can get you in trouble. You should only judge renters by their rental history, ability to pay rent, and references.

Steering renters towards a certain area

An example of this would be showing a property in an Asian neighborhood to Asians only. You would be discriminating by providing limited listings and listing information to your client based on their race. Show renters properties that satisfy the features they’ve requested, but don’t limit them to a specific section of the neighborhood based on race, age, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

Charging more to a specific group for your services

Whether this is commission, rent, or amenity fees, you need to have a fair, established payment system for all your clients. Be upfront about your fee structure and break down the total so there’s no nasty surprises for anyone.

Threaten your renters when they complain about fair housing violations

If you’re guilty of discrimination and your renter accuses you of it, it’s better to accept it and try to fix the problem than threatening them so you won’t get reported.

While you can’t discriminate against against race, religion, ethnic background, or disability, you can choose not to rent to individuals who smoke, have pets, or bad credit. The “it’s my property so I’ll rent to someone I like” mentality is understandable, but you need to make sure your standards are within the limits set by fair housing laws.

About the Author

Jennifer Chan is a marketing specialist at Zillow and produces content for the rentals side of the Zillow for Pros blog.

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