Know The Laws to Avoid Tenant Screening Pitfalls
There are many laws that govern the rental sphere, and chief among them is Federal Fair Housing. This law protects tenants from discriminatory practices and allows for equal housing opportunities for everyone. Violating these laws can cost a landlord or property manager big time, so be sure to familiarize yourself with these laws. Many states also have their own protected classes in addition to those on the federal level. Make sure to do your homework on all state and federal laws and stay current on any changes as they arise. Claiming ignorance will cost you big (a Fair Housing violation can cost upwards of $10k just to defend yourself!), as saying “I didn’t know” won’t hold up against a Fair Housing violation.
Think Before You Speak
Friendly conversation is natural and often comes up during the application process. After all, you want to be polite and approachable, but sometimes what we think is just a harmless comment or question can actually turn into a discrimination claim. Making comments such as “Where is your accent from?” or “You have such an interesting look!” can be misinterpreted and seen as discriminatory. Think carefully and assess each comment or question before you speak. You can still be friendly while remaining professional.
Nothing sparks a Fair Housing complaint more than inconsistency. Doing something for one applicant but not another or showing special preference can lead to a Fair Housing violation. So when it comes to screening applications, consistency is key. By having one process for everyone, it’s easier to avoid tenant screening pitfalls and defend against claims of discrimination that may arise. And if you make an exception for one person, be ready to make that same exception available to everyone in that same situation.
Tenant screening is a critical part of property management and one where even the smallest misstep can lead to a world of trouble. While you may not intend to discriminate against someone, not knowing or failure to follow the laws surrounding tenant screening practices is a big deal. Make sure you’re familiar with all state and federal Fair Housing laws and keep up with any legislation changes that affect tenant screening. And when in doubt, consider hiring a professional to help you manager your rental. Real Property Management Colorado has leased over 1300 rentals in the last year alone. We have the knowledge and expertise to help homeowners avoid these pitfalls. Give us a call at 719-471-7368 to see how we can help you!
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.