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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Celina Rental Property Application

Tenant screening is a vital component of successfully managing Celina rental properties. It’s not always as simple as it may seem, though. There are numerous ways that your screening procedure could violate local or national landlord laws. These regulations aim to provide livable housing while preventing potential discrimination against or for protected classes of renters. From the very first conversation, they safeguard current and prospective tenants. It is therefore essential to ensure that your tenant screening is not only exhaustive but also does not include discrimination. 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 encompasses all aspects of the tenant-landlord relationship. The FFHA prohibits landlords from rejecting a tenant based on their race, sex, religion, family situation, or disability, to name a few. Moreover, the FFHA prevents landlords from falsely stating that a rental home is unavailable or requiring certain tenants to meet stricter qualifications. This includes requesting a greater security deposit from particular tenants or evicting someone for any reason other than the reason you would evict another tenant. 

Penalties for Discrimination 

There may be severe punishments when violating FFHA. For instance, if a property owner is found to have violated the Fair Housing Act for the first time, he or she may be subject to a maximum civil penalty of $21,663. 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. Avoiding these penalties is sufficient justification for ensuring that your applicant screening process is not discriminatory. 

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 critical to take precautions to ensure everything is FFHA-compliant because tenant screening begins with the very first conversation you have with someone applying for your rental property. During that initial discussion, you should emphasize describing your approval criteria and expectations. 

Avoid Illegal Questions. Throughout the tenant screening process, avoid asking questions that could compel a tenant to disclose confidential information. Throughout tenant screening, it is generally inappropriate to inquire about ancestry, race, or national origin. The same stands true for queries concerning disability or family status. These inquiries should not be seen on your application forms and must be avoided during the conversation except when the tenant brings them up. 

Examine Your Approval Process. Additionally, it is important to check your screening process for any potential forms of discrimination. As an example, Celina property managers should accept applications and conduct tenant screenings in the order they are received. Discrimination happens when an application is gathered and then kept on hold while you wait for someone else to apply. If an applicant has already paid the amounts required and forwarded complete application materials, you should proceed with the screening process. It’s acceptable to reject an applicant based on predetermined standards, such as a low credit score or unpleasant 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. Since not all criminal offenses are viewed as sufficient grounds for denying tenancy, it is important to know which ones are and modify your tenant screening process accordingly. 

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. It will allow you to avoid fines and legal action, as well as provide your community with equal housing opportunities. 

Want someone else to manage your property entirely or do you need some advice on managing your property? Reach Real Property Management Focus at 469-820-0088 or contact us online now!

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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