Property owners in Jacksonvlle, FL must know their legal obligations when screening potential renters. When screening potential renters or managing current residents, a property owner must avoid discriminating against someone because of a disability.
To help protect renters from punitive landlords, the Fair Housing Act is in place to prevent discrimination against renters with disabilities—but what does this really mean when operating rental properties? Property managers help ensure the tenant screening process keeps investors on the right side of the law. Keep reading to learn our best Jacksonville, FL property management insights about Fair Housing Act for real estate investors!
What Is the Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in renting, selling, and financing housing. Under the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate against individuals with disabilities or other items outlined in the law. The law also makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, national origin, or physical or mental disability.
The U.S Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) enforces the Fair Housing Act. This includes investigating allegations of illegal housing discrimination.
Tenant Screening and Fair Housing Discrimination
So, what does that mean when reviewing tenant applications and choosing a new renter? Property owners must follow specific rules when it comes to tenant screening. A property management company can help you comply with aspects of the law and keep these things in mind:
- It is unlawful to advertise or state anything that appears to show a preference against a protected class. For example, investors should avoid advertising a neighborhood as a religious community, which might give the impression that non-religious tenants aren’t welcome or permitted to rent.
- Lying and claiming a rental is not available to avoid an applicant violates the law. Owners must allow any potential renter to go through the application procedure.
- Avoid making more stringent requirements than those required of any other potential tenants or prohibiting a specific category of people from renting. Saying you don’t allow families or individuals from one particular country, for example, will get you into legal trouble.
- Don’t set different terms for each renter before or during their lease to avoid any confusion. All prospective tenants should be treated equally.
- Never evict a tenant or cancel a lease agreement or from one of your rental properties for a discriminatory reason.
Complying with anti-discrimination regulations is easier with the help of the best property management Jacksonville offers!
Have a Standard Screening Process In Place
To avoid discrimination claims, a real estate investor should have a standard screening process in place. It’s critical to have a clear set of rules for every interaction you have with potential renters. This begins with the first contact you have with someone inquiring about your property. Make it a point to describe your approval criteria and expectations in the first meeting with a potential tenant.
On the other hand, property owners must avoid asking questions that might force a potential tenant to disclose protected information. During tenant screening, inquiries about ancestry, race, or national origin are generally inappropriate. The same may be said for inquiries regarding disability or family status. A property owner must also ensure that the property listing or lease forms avoid any bias. Finding great residents and avoiding lawsuits starts by ensuring each prospective renter feels welcome!
Audit Your Screening Process With a Property Manager
If you’re not sure how well you follow Fair Housing requirements, a property manager can help you with an audit of your screening process. Sometimes less obvious forms of prejudice can sneak into your process unintentionally, but you’re still responsible for a fair and equal placement process.
For example, landlords should evaluate and screen applicants in the order in which they are received. Accepting an application—then sitting on it because you’re waiting for someone else to apply—is a form of discrimination. If an applicant has paid the required fees and submitted all of their application documents, continue with the screening process for that applicant.
Even with rules to protect renters from bad landlords, property owners shouldn’t fear choosing the best renter for their properties. It’s acceptable to disqualify someone based on pre-determined criteria like their credit score or bad references. With a standard screening process, rental owners can keep any accidental discrimination at bay. A property manager can help design a standard tenant screening process or even take over the process to relieve your stress and minimize the potential for missteps.
A Jacksonville Property Management Company Complies With the Law
Discrimination (intentional or accidental) can cause legal hurdles for owners, create reputation issues in the market, and lead to financial issues down the road. However, with the right tenant screening process, owners can avoid violations while placing excellent residents!
Hiring a Jacksonville, FL property management company can minimize the risk of violating landlord and tenant laws. The right property managers also handle day-to-day tasks to optimize returns for your residential rental property. Spectrum Realty Services knows the tenant screening process and can help you find and manage your best renters! Let’s talk soon about how our property management services can help.