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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Southport Rental Property Application

Tenant screening is a crucial aspect of owning prosperous Southport rental properties. Despite appearances, the process is not always as simple as it may appear. Your screening procedure may violate various federal or local landlord laws in a number of different ways. These regulations aim to provide livable housing while preventing potential discrimination against or for protected classes of renters. They protect renters and prospective renters from the initial conversation onward. Because of this, it’s crucial to check that your tenant screening is not only thorough but also devoid of any forms of discrimination. By abstaining from discrimination, you not only keep yourself out of potentially crippling lawsuits, but you also make sure that your procedure is just and in line with all relevant legislation. 

Fair Housing Act 

The Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) is the most crucial statute for property owners to comprehend when it comes to federal laws against discrimination. The act covers all facets of landlord-tenant relations. The FFHA prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to tenants based on their race, sex, religion, family status, or disability, among other factors. The FFHA forbids landlords from misinterpreting the provision of a rental home to a tenant or from demanding that certain tenants adhere to more rigid requirements. This involves asking for a larger security deposit from specific tenants or evicting someone for any reason other than the one that would lead you to evict another tenant. 

Penalties for Discrimination 

Violating FFHA can result in severe penalties. For instance, a property owner who is found in violation of the Fair Housing Act may be subject to a maximum civil penalty of $21,663 for the offense. The maximum fine for respondents who had broken the Fair Housing Act in the previous five years was $54,157, and the maximum fine for respondents who had broken the law twice or more in the previous seven years was $108,315. It is wise to make sure that your applicant screening procedure does not prejudice any applicants simply to avoid incurring these penalties. 

Strategies for Legal Tenant Screening 

To verify that your tenant screening process is both thorough and legal, it is essential to have clear guidelines for all interactions with new and existing tenants. 

Clarify Approval Criteria. Since tenant screening begins with the very first conversation you have with an applicant for your rental property, it is imperative to take precautions to maintain FFHA compliance. It’s important to mention your approval standards and expectations throughout the first conversation. 

Avoid Illegal Questions. All through the tenant screening process, resist asking questions that could entice a tenant to divulge private information. Usually, it is inappropriate to ask questions during the tenant screening process about ancestry, race, or national origin. Inquiries about a person’s disability or family situation are the same. Such inquiries shouldn’t be made in conversation or on your application materials unless the tenant specifically brings them up. 

Examine Your Approval Process. It is also critical to review your screening process for any other likely forms of discrimination. As a rule, for example, Southport property managers should generally accept applications and carry out tenant screenings in the order they are received. A form of discrimination is to collect applications and then delay them while you wait for someone else to submit theirs. You should move ahead with the screening process for an applicant when all of their application forms are submitted and they have paid the necessary fees. It’s acceptable to reject an applicant based on predetermined standards, such as a low credit score or unpleasant references. But it is not right to make an applicant wait for a response while hoping that another applicant will qualify. 

Know and Follow the Law. Last but not least, every landlord should be fully aware of the regulations in place in their community regarding the renting of people with criminal records. It’s crucial to recognize what they are and modify your tenant screening process appropriately because not all criminal offenses are considered good enough grounds to deny someone a rental. 

Knowing the federal and local laws in your area and abiding by them can make sure that your tenant screening process does not discriminate against any applicant. This will assist you in avoiding any penalties or legal action, as well as help your community by offering fair housing. 

Need some property management advice, or maybe you’d rather have someone else take care of it for you? Give Real Property Management Champion a call at 910-782-4488 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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