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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Mission Valley Rental Property ApplicationTenant screening is a crucial part of owning profitable Mission Valley rental properties. Despite appearances, the process is not always as simple as it may appear. There are lots of different ways in which your screening method could breach federal or local landlord regulations. These laws are intended to prevent potential discrimination against or on behalf of protected classes of renters and to ensure the availability of habitable housing. From the very first conversation, they safeguard current and prospective tenants. To avoid discrimination, it is crucial to make sure that your tenant screening is both thorough and free of bias. By minimizing discrimination, you not only eliminate lengthy and costly lawsuits but also ensure that your process is fair and complies with all applicable laws. 

Fair Housing Act 

The Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) is the primary federal law regarding discrimination that property owners need to be aware of. The act covers all facets of landlord-tenant relations. According to the FFHA, landlords cannot reject a tenant based on their race, sex, religion, family background, or disability, to name a few. The FFHA also forbids landlords from misrepresenting the availability of a rental home or imposing stricter requirements on particular tenants. 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 example, if a landowner is found in violation of the Fair Housing Act for the first time, a maximum civil penalty of $21,663 can be imposed. Informants who violated the Fair Housing Act within the previous five years could be fined up to $54,157, and respondents who violated the Act twice or more within the previous seven years could be fined up to $108,315. Make sure that your applicant screening procedure does not discriminate against any applicants just to avoid 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. It’s necessary to take measures to keep everything FFHA-compliant because tenant screening commences with the very first meeting you have with someone searching to apply for your rental property. During that initial discussion, you should emphasize describing your approval criteria and expectations. 

Avoid Illegal Questions. Be cautious when conducting the tenant screening process to avoid requesting protected information from your tenant. Normally, it is improper to ask a prospective tenant questions about their ancestry, race, or nationality. The same stands true for queries concerning disability or family status. Such queries shouldn’t be included in your application documents, and you should steer clear of them in conversation unless the tenant mentions them. 

Examine Your Approval Process. Additionally, it is important to check your screening process for any potential forms of discrimination. As an illustration, Mission Valley property managers should ordinarily accept applications and interview potential tenants in the order that they are received. A form of discrimination is to collect applications and then delay them while you wait for someone else to submit theirs. If the applicant has paid the due amount and presented complete application forms, you should begin the screening process. It is appropriate to disqualify an applicant based on predetermined criteria, such as a low credit score or inadequate references. It’s not acceptable to delay a response while you wait for someone else to meet the requirements, though. 

Know and Follow the Law. Finally, each property owner should have a thorough understanding of the local law relating to renting to people with a criminal record. 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. 

Your tenant screening process really should not be inclined against any distinct applicant if you are aware of the federal and local laws that apply to your area and you maintain compliance. This will assist you in avoiding any penalties or legal action, as well as help your community by offering fair housing. 

Do you need some advice on managing your property, or would you prefer to have someone else handle everything? Call Real Property Management Realevate Refined at 619-842-1150 or contact us online right away!

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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