Owning profitable Sandy Springs rental properties necessitates thorough tenant screening. However, the process is not always as straightforward as it may appear. There are numerous ways that your screening procedure could violate local or national landlord laws. These regulations aim to provide livable housing while preventing potential discrimination against or for protected classes of renters. They protect renters and prospective renters from the initial conversation onward. This is why it is essential to make sure that your tenant screening is not only detailed but that it does not overstep the line into discrimination. By resisting discrimination, you not only remove potentially costly lawsuits but also guarantee that your process is fair and in accordance 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. The FFHA prohibits landlords from rejecting a tenant based on their race, sex, religion, family situation, or disability, to name a few. In addition, the FFHA prohibits landlords from distorting the selection of a rental property or requiring certain tenants to meet stricter criteria. This encompasses needing a larger security deposit from certain tenants or evicting a tenant for a reason that would not result in the eviction of another tenant.
Penalties for Discrimination
FFHA violations can have serious repercussions. For instance, a property owner who is found in violation of the Fair Housing Act may be subject to a maximum civil penalty of $21,663 for the offense. The maximum fine for respondents who had broken the Fair Housing Act in the previous five years was $54,157, and the maximum fine for respondents who had broken the law twice or more in the previous seven years was $108,315. Avoiding these penalties is sufficient justification for ensuring that your applicant screening process is not discriminatory.
Strategies for Legal Tenant Screening
To make sure that your tenant screening process is both precise and legal, it is fundamental to have a set of clear guidelines for every interaction with prospective or current tenants.
Clarify Approval Criteria. It’s critical to take precautions to ensure everything is FFHA-compliant because tenant screening begins with the very first conversation you have with someone applying for your rental property. You should make it a priority to explain your approval criteria and expectations during this initial conversation.
Avoid Illegal Questions. Be careful not to ask your tenant any questions during the tenant screening process that might pressure them to reveal protected information. Typically, inquiries into ancestry, race, or national origin are not appropriate during the tenant screening process. For inquiries regarding a disability or family situation, the same is valid. These questions should not show up on your application forms and should be avoided in the discussion unless the tenant talks about it.
Examine Your Approval Process. It’s essential to examine your screening process for any additional potential forms of discrimination. For instance, as a general rule, Sandy Springs 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. If an applicant has already paid the amounts required and forwarded complete application materials, you should proceed with the screening process. It’s acceptable to reject an applicant based on predetermined standards, such as a low credit score or unpleasant references. But it is not right to make an applicant wait for a response while hoping that another applicant will qualify.
Know and Follow the Law. Lastly, every property owner should be aware of the local laws regarding renting to people with a criminal record. 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.
Want someone else to manage your property entirely or do you need some advice on managing your property? Call Real Property Management Greenway at 770-771-6102 or contact us online straightaway!
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.