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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Hoover Rental Property Application

Tenant screening is a crucial part of owning profitable Hoover rental properties. It’s not always as simple as it may seem, though. There are lots of ways in which your tenant screening procedure could violate federal or local landlord laws. These laws are intended to protect protected classes of renters from potential discrimination and to provide livable housing. From the beginning of the conversation, they protect tenants and prospective tenants. Due diligence must be taken in your tenant screening to avoid discrimination, in addition to being thorough. Avoiding discrimination will help you keep your process fair and in line with all applicable laws while also preventing potentially costly lawsuits. 

Fair Housing Act 

The Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) is the primary federal law regarding discrimination that property owners need to be aware of. Every facet of tenant-landlord interactions is covered by the act. The FFHA prohibits landlords from rejecting a tenant based on their race, sex, religion, family situation, or disability, to name a few. The FFHA explicitly prohibits landlords from misconstruing the usage of a rental home to a tenant or from imposing stricter requirements on specific tenants. 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 

FFHA violations can have serious repercussions. 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. Make sure that your applicant screening procedure does not discriminate against any applicants just to avoid these penalties. 

Strategies for Legal Tenant Screening 

It’s essential to have specific rules for every interaction with potential or present tenants if you want to make sure that your screening process is both thorough and legal. 

Clarify Approval Criteria. It’s vital to take safety measures to keep everything FFHA-compliant because tenant screening begins with the very first discussion you have with someone seeking 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. Throughout tenant screening, it is generally inappropriate to inquire about ancestry, race, or national origin. The same applies to questions regarding disability and 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. Examining your screening process for other possible forms of discrimination is crucial. As an illustration, Hoover property managers should ordinarily accept applications and interview potential tenants in the order that they are received. Discrimination happens when an application is gathered and then kept on hold while you wait for someone else to apply. You should move forward with the screening process for an applicant if they have presented all of their required paperwork and the required fees. It is acceptable to reject an applicant based on predetermined standards, such as a low credit score or unfavorable references. However, it isn’t acceptable to keep an applicant waiting for a response while you wait for another applicant to be accepted. 

Know and Follow the Law. Last but not least, every landlord should be fully aware of the local regulations governing renting to people with a criminal record. It’s helpful to comprehend what they are and modify your tenant screening process accordingly because not all criminal offenses are considered good enough grounds to deny a tenant 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. Your community will receive fair housing as a result, and you will be able to avoid any fines or legal action.

Need some property management advice, or maybe you’d rather have someone else take care of it for you? Give Real Property Management Victory a call at 205-793-0700 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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