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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Key Largo Rental Property ApplicationTenant screening is a vital component of successfully managing Key Largo rental properties. But sometimes the process isn’t as simple as it seems. There are several ways that your screening procedure might violate local or national landlord laws. These laws are intended to protect protected classes of renters from potential discrimination and to provide livable housing. Right from the first conversation, they protect tenants and prospective tenants. It is therefore essential to ensure that your tenant screening is not only exhaustive but also does not include discrimination. 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 most crucial statute for property owners to comprehend when it comes to federal laws against discrimination. Every facet of tenant-landlord interactions is covered by the act. The FFHA prohibits landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants based on, along with other factors, their race, sex, religion, family status, or disability. 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. 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. The fact that your screening procedure shouldn’t exclude any applicants is a good enough reason in and of itself 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. Since tenant screening begins with the very first conversation you have with an applicant for your rental property, it is imperative to take precautions to maintain FFHA compliance. You ought to make it a point to outline your approval standards and expectations during that initial conversation. 

Avoid Illegal Questions. Keep an eye out for questions that might compel your tenant to reveal protected information while conducting the tenant screening process. Usually, it is inappropriate to ask questions during the tenant screening process about ancestry, race, or national origin. The same holds true for inquiries about a person’s ability or family situation. Unless the tenant specifically brings them up, such questions shouldn’t be included in your application materials or brought up in conversation. 

Examine Your Approval Process. Reviewing your screening process for any possible form of discrimination is also vital. As an example, Key Largo property managers should accept applications and conduct tenant screenings in the order they are received. Discrimination occurs when you gather applications and keep them on file while you wait for someone else to apply. You should proceed with the screening process for an applicant whose application materials are complete and for whom the necessary fees have been paid. It is acceptable to reject an applicant based on predetermined standards, such as a low credit score or unfavorable references. However, making an applicant wait for a response while you wait for someone else to meet the requirements is not. 

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. Not all criminal violations are sufficient grounds to refuse to rent to a person, so it is essential to understand which ones are and to change your tenant screening process appropriately. 

Knowing the federal and local laws in your area and abiding by them can make sure that your tenant screening process does not discriminate against any applicant. Your community will receive fair housing as a result, and you will be able to avoid any fines or legal action. 

In need of property management advice, or perhaps you’d prefer to have another person manage your property entirely? Reach Real Property Management Genesis at 786-744-5700 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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