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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Soddy Daisy Rental Property ApplicationTenant screening is a crucial aspect of owning prosperous Soddy Daisy 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. The purpose of these laws is to prevent discrimination against or for protected classes of renters and to provide habitable shelter. 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. 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 comprehend. The act encompasses all aspects of the tenant-landlord relationship. The FFHA prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to tenants based on their race, sex, religion, family status, or disability, among other factors. 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 needing a larger security deposit from specific tenants or evicting a tenant for a reason that would not lead to the eviction of another tenant. 

Penalties for Discrimination 

There are major consequences for violating FFHA. A property owner, for instance, may be charged the greatest civil fine of $21,663 for the very first violation of the Fair Housing Act, if a violation was found. Persons who infringed the Fair Housing Act in the previous five years could be fined up to $54,157, and respondents who breached the Act twice or more in the previous seven years could be charged up to a maximum of $108,315. It is wise to make sure that your applicant screening procedure does not prejudice any applicants simply to avoid incurring these penalties. 

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 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. You should emphasize outlining your approval standards and expectations during that initial conversation. 

Avoid Illegal Questions. All through the tenant screening process, resist asking questions that could entice a tenant to divulge private information. During tenant screening, questions regarding heredity, race, or national origin are typically improper. The same applies to questions regarding disability and family status. Such inquiries shouldn’t be made in conversation or on your application materials unless the tenant specifically brings them up. 

Examine Your Approval Process. It is also critical to review your screening process for any other likely forms of discrimination. As a rule, for example, Soddy Daisy property managers should generally accept applications and carry out 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. 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 reasonable to disqualify an applicant based on predetermined factors, such as a low credit score or poor 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. Understanding what they are and modifying your tenant screening procedure accordingly is vital because not all criminal offenses are considered good enough grounds to deny a tenant a rental. 

The tenant screening process ought not to be biased against any specific applicant when you are aware of the local and federal laws that apply to it and you follow them. It will allow you to avoid fines and legal action, as well as provide your community with equal housing opportunities. 

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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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