How to Avoid Fair Housing Complaints When Choosing a Tenant

tenant screening

By Marissa Rodriguez

The Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and has been a staple of federal law ever since. Its intention is to protect those seeking to rent or buy a home and those seeking housing assistance or any other housing-related protected activities. One of the most common tenant screening mistakes that landlords make is accidentally not complying with the FHA and getting into legal trouble. This article will review how landlords can avoid Fair Housing complaints when choosing a tenant.

Know Whom the Fair Housing Act Protects

The Fair Housing Act is very specific in whom it protects, as it was designed to protect those who most often experience discrimination in the housing market. The Fair Housing Act has made it illegal to discriminate against a person based on gender, national origin, age, religion, mental or physical ability, sexual or gender orientation, and familial status. It is also important to note that state and local laws may add to the list of protected classes. For example, many states also prohibit discrimination based on marital status, making it essential to be aware of more than just federal laws. This means that when rejecting or accepting a tenant application, be sure that you are not doing so in favor of one of these protected classes over the other.

Make Decisions That Are Business Related

Landlords are human, meaning that you and other landlords are bound to make mistakes. Often, it is very easy to make emotional decisions based on passing judgments or previous biases. When looking at a tenant application, try to avoid looking at their photos or other non-business-related information until you’ve finished looking at the rest of the application. You can also make it a habit to ask yourself whether your decision is grounded in advancing your business or if it’s coming from a place of emotion. While separating your business from feelings can be challenging, it’s the best way to avoid Fair Housing complaints when choosing a tenant.

Use the Same Screening Tools Every Time

To avoid emotional decisions, ensure that you and your employees use the same tenant screening tools every time. Make the screening processes as mechanical as possible to prevent future issues. If you use a different screening process for one potential tenant and not the other, you’re opening yourself up to complaints and possibly lawsuits. This also includes giving one tenant a break while not applying the same kindness to other tenants, as an existing tenant can file FHA lawsuits as well.

Remember that complying with the Fair Housing Act is not just about avoiding legal trouble but giving everyone a fair chance at having a home. And doing so isn’t just good for business, it’s good for your reputation. Giving everyone the same chance makes you look good compared to the landlords who don’t. Whether you’re a beginner landlord or you’ve been in the business for years, complying with federal, local, and state laws is the best way to keep your business going strong.

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Finance Magazine: How to Avoid Fair Housing Complaints When Choosing a Tenant
How to Avoid Fair Housing Complaints When Choosing a Tenant
Landlords must comply with fair housing laws. Learn how to select tenants while complying with the FHA.
Finance Magazine
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