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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Apollo BeachRental Property ApplicationOwning profitable Apollo Beach rental properties necessitates thorough tenant screening. However, the process is not always as straightforward as it may appear. There are lots of ways in which your tenant screening procedure could violate federal or local landlord laws. These rules are made to protect protected renter classes from potential discrimination and to provide livable housing. From the beginning of the conversation, they protect tenants and prospective tenants. To avoid discrimination, it is crucial to make sure that your tenant screening is both thorough and free of bias. Preventing discrimination not only helps you stay out of risky lawsuits but also helps you keep your process fair and in line with all applicable laws. 

Fair Housing Act 

The Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) is the most important federal anti-discrimination statute for property owners to grasp. The act addresses all tenant-landlord interactions. A tenant’s race, sex, religion, family situation, or disability, to name a few, cannot be used as grounds for a landlord to refuse to rent out a property under the FFHA. Moreover, the FFHA prevents landlords from falsely stating that a rental home is unavailable or requiring certain tenants to meet stricter qualifications. This includes asking some tenants for a larger security deposit or evicting someone for any reason that wouldn’t lead you to evict another tenant. 

Penalties for Discrimination 

There may be serious repercussions for 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. Applicants could be fined a maximum of $54,157 for violations of the Fair Housing Act committed within the previous five years, and a maximum of $108,315 for violations committed twice or more within the previous seven years. Avoiding these sanctions is reason enough to ensure that your applicant screening process does not discriminate against any applicants. 

Strategies for Legal Tenant Screening 

To ensure that your screening process is both detailed and legal, it is necessary to have specific guidelines for all interactions with current and future 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. You should emphasize outlining your approval standards and expectations during that initial conversation. 

Avoid Illegal Questions. Throughout the tenant screening process, avoid asking questions that could compel a tenant to disclose confidential information. During tenant screening, questions regarding heredity, race, or national origin are typically improper. The same applies to questions regarding disability and 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. It is also critical to review your screening process for any other likely forms of discrimination. For instance, as a general rule, Apollo Beach property managers should approve applications and screen tenants in the order that they are received. It is discrimination to collect and then sit on an application because you are waiting for another person 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’s okay to disqualify an applicant based on predetermined standards, such as a poor credit score or unflattering 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. Finally, every landlord should be fully aware of the regulations in place in their region regarding the rental of people with criminal records. 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. 

You can guarantee that your tenant screening process does not discriminate against any applicant by familiarizing yourself with the federal and local laws in your area and by adhering to them. This will save you from fines and lawsuits and ensure that your community has access to fair housing. 

You might want to hire someone to manage your property entirely if you need some property management advice. Reach Real Property Management Freedom at 813-867-2667 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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