Screening tenants is an important task. It allows you to find the best tenants to work with and will pay the rent on time. It is important to perform background checks on potential tenants. Under the Fair Housing Act, you may inquire about their ability to pay and their previous rental histories.
Questions You Can’t Ask a Potential Tenant
However, there are certain things that you are prohibited from asking about when screening tenants. Under the Fair Housing Act, you are prohibited from discriminating and refusing to rent to someone. This can be based on their race, skin color, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or familial status.
While most landlords are aware of this, not all of them are aware that innocent-sounding questions can actually violate the Fair Housing Act. It is important to know all relevant laws so that you don’t violate them and get sued. There are actually people who go around and present themselves as tenants in order to catch landlords in violation of the Act so that they can serve them with a lawsuit.
For example, you can’t discriminate against someone based on their familial status. This means that it doesn’t matter whether they are married or how many children (who are minors) that they have. Asking questions or making remarks about whether they are single, where they are from, or whether they have children may sound like innocent small talk. However, it has no place in a tenant screening session.
The same goes for disabilities. While you may have a no-pet policy, you will need to accept those who have service animals.
Learn More About the Fair Housing Act
It’s best to have a professional conduct your screenings for you, as they are knowledgeable about all relevant laws. Contact us for more information.