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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Keller Rental Property ApplicationTo have successful Keller rental properties, you must have proper tenant screening. But it is much easier said than done. Federal or local landlord laws will influence your screening process. These laws have been designed to reduce potential discrimination against tenants by protecting them even from the initial conversation. This is why it is critical that your tenant screening, thorough it may be, does not cross the line into discrimination. When you avoid discrimination, you also avoid expensive lawsuits and you ensure that your screening process is fair and compliant with all relevant laws.

When it comes to federal laws about discrimination, all property owners must understand the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). This set of laws encompasses all aspects of tenant-landlord interaction. The FHA does not allow refusal to rent a property based on a tenant’s race, religion, family status, or disability. The FHA also restricts landlords from withholding a rental house to a tenant by saying it is unavailable when it is or to ask for more requirements from certain tenants. One of these prohibitions is that a landlord can’t require a higher security deposit from certain tenants. Fair treatment in terms of tenant eviction is also covered by this law.

A clear set of guidelines for every interaction you have with potential or current tenants is very important. This applies even to the very first conversation you have with interested applicants for your rental property. During that conversation, you should be able to inform them of the approval criteria and expectations.

But be careful not to force your tenant to disclose protected information. Some inappropriate queries during tenant screening are those that are about heredity, race, or national origin. Avoid asking about disabilities or familial status as well. Avoid including questions like these in your application documents. And don’t bring them up in conversation either unless the tenant initiates it.

It is vital that you study your screening process to see if there are other potential forms of discrimination. For example, property owners must process applications and screen tenants based on which ones came first. It would also be discriminatory to collect an application and just sit on it because you are waiting for somebody else to apply. If an applicant has paid the required fees and their application documents are complete, you should continue with the screening process for that applicant. Disqualifying an applicant based on pre-determined criteria, such as their credit score or poor references, is perfectly fine. However, it is not right to make an applicant wait for your answer as you hope for another to apply and qualify.

Lastly, all property owners must have a good grasp of pertinent laws that cover 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. But you should remember that not all criminal offenses are considered a sufficient reason to deny someone a rental application. There are instances where local laws differ from federal, so it is important to really understand what they are so you can tweak your tenant screening process.

When you know the laws in your area, you can ensure that your tenant screening process isn’t discriminating against any specific applicant. In this way, you also avoid legal problems that typically come with 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 Five Star a call at 682-831-1300 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.

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