Landlords need to be aware of fair housing laws or may end up in court.
A court in Georgia fined a real estate agency and a past employee agent $60,000 for refusing to show a rental unit to families with children. Refusing to rent to families with children is a clear violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Many rental property owners and independent landlords are unfamiliar with the importance of the Fair Housing Act and may have actually accidentally violated the Act but no recourse was sought.
As the nation’s rental population increases, so do the number of lawsuits regarding fair housing. It’s time to know how to protect yourself and your rental property.
You can and should screen tenants carefully and find the very best suited tenants based on your screening criteria and your property. According to NOLO, an online supplier of legal solutions, you should always be consistent and make decisions based on business reasons–not personal preference. NOLO has an excellent 5 step guide for using the fair housing act correctly here.
Following a consistent plan for screening tenants, and the Fair Housing Act, will help you avoid discrimination and stay out of court! ARPOLA recommends the following:
Use sound business decisions to accept or reject a prospective tenant
If your proposed tenant cannot afford the security deposit and has many credit issues, keep looking. Run a complete investigative background check and review the report carefully.
Know the Fair Housing Act
You must know what you can and cannot do to avoid violating the federal rules and laws contained in the Act.
Be sure that everyone who works with prospective tenants is trained
You can be held responsible for policies and practices that your agents, including a relative or spouse, employ when renting your property. This is especially important for property managers.
Be consistent when you consider applicants
You cannot make excepts for applicants based on any criteria. However, you can avoid allowing criminals in your rental property by using investigate screening and background checks. ARPOLA’s investigative screening is only $28 and includes a complete review by a licensed private investigator
Use a tenant screening service
Talk to experienced landlords and they all say the same thing, use a tenant screening service. Also it’s worth the time to actually verify a prospective tenant’s identity and call the last two landlords. Sometimes the most recent landlord wants the tenant to move but the previous landlord has no stake in the tenant’s rental situation anymore. Call their employer and find out the employer’s verification process. All of these steps are worth the time to avoid an unqualified tenant.