Many forms of discrimination when selecting tenants are barred by the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and state laws. As a landlord, there may be circumstances where you turn an applicant down for what you feel are legitimate reasons, but that the applicant sees as discrimination. Below are a few tips to follow in order to minimize the likelihood that you will be charged with housing discrimination.
The FHA prohibits selecting tenants based on the following characteristics:
- Ethnicity or national origin
- Familial status (having children)
- Marital status
- Physical or mental disabilities
The first step in ensuring that you don’t discriminate in selecting tenants is to never base your decision on one of these characteristics.
A landlord is allowed to discriminate on the basis of legitimate business reasons. The following are a few examples of factors that a landlord is allowed to use in selecting tenants:
- Credit history
- References from past landlords
- Past behavior (such as damaging property)
In addition to having these legitimate reasons or standards, it is important to apply them to all applicants and tenants in the same way. Don’t make exceptions to your standards because this can be seen as discrimination. If you treat all applicants the same and base your decisions on legitimate business reasons, you are less likely to be accused of unlawfully discriminating against a prospective tenant.
It is important that you know the law. If you know the law, you will know what is allowed and what is prohibited. For example, some places have exemptions for small landlords. A lawyer who is experienced in real estate law can inform you about the law in your area.
The laws surrounding landlord-tenant issues can be very complicated. An experienced real estate lawyer can help you learn about the laws in your area, so you can make informed decisions about your selection process. Also, a real estate lawyer can assist you if you are accused of discrimination.