Want to tank your career in rental properties? Just ignore Fair Housing Laws.
Sure, Fair Housing Laws for renters are complicated. But in real estate, they’re a must. And claiming ignorance if you break fair housing laws unintentionally won’t work. When it comes to discrimination, there’s no excuse.
Start with these 5 tips to make sure you’re staying fair and legal as you manage your investment properties.
1. Stay Up-To-Date on Fair Housing Laws
Rental laws are always changing. And with fair housing, they’re getting more strict, not less. Lawmakers continually seek to close the loopholes that some landlords use to refuse tenants.
So, stay in the know. Use resources like the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs website to keep current.
And, if you have a question, ask a real estate agent, property management company, or attorney before you act.
2. Don’t Make Quick Decisions
You can’t choose tenants based on your gut feelings. Rather, choose every tenant equally and methodically. Keep your qualification standards consistent. Also, base your standards on what’s best for business (not personal preferences). For example, consider setting a minimum income requirement to protect your investment, but don’t just assume an applicant can’t afford your property.
If you’re not doing so already, use a Potential Tenant Questionnaire for every applicant — then you avoid asking one person too many questions while making too many assumptions about another.
3. Back Up Your Decisions
As you search for the best applicant, document everything. Record the date, time, and a brief description of each communication. Keep your notes on denied applicants too. If they come back with a discrimination claim, you want to show you followed the law.
Once you place a tenant, give them their own file and stay up-to-date with your records. Continue to document communication, rental payments, receipts, and any problems. But you can’t just do this for some tenants — keep your system the same for everyone.
Each tenant must be held to the same standards while they rent from you. You can’t excuse one tenant’s late fee while you try to evict another for the same offense. And, if you’re not sure how to stay compliant in a situation like seizing a property, take the time to talk to someone with a better knowledge of the situation.
4. Watch Your Words
As a professional, you need to continually act and speak professionally. Never get so comfortable with a tenant you let an offensive joke or crude remark slip. If it’s not professional, don’t say it.
Also, watch for assumptions that will creep into your conversations. You may innocently assume a woman wants particular features in a house only to find out your comments offend her. Or maybe you remark to a person in a wheelchair that they’d probably prefer a house that’s more accessible. Don’t. These comments can be misconstrued even if you mean no offense.
5. Treat Everyone Equally
Fair housing laws for renters leave no room for error. So, treat everyone the same. Never make assumptions — just use your questionnaire as a guide for what type of property someone is looking for. And if you’re worried about renting to an unqualified tenant, use a thorough tenant screening process for every applicant that factors in income and credit history.
Even if it’s unintentional, discrimination can put a landlord at huge risks. Don’t chance it — know your stuff!