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Tenant Screening – Make Sure You’re Not Discriminating

Close Up View of a Beebe Rental Property Application

Owning successful Beebe rental properties requires careful tenant screening. But sometimes the process isn’t as simple as it seems. There are lots of ways in which your tenant screening procedure could violate federal or local landlord laws. These laws are intended to protect protected classes of renters from potential discrimination and to provide livable housing. They protect renters and prospective renters from the initial conversation onward. To avoid discrimination, it is crucial to make sure that your tenant screening is both thorough and free of bias. Preventing discrimination not only helps you stay out of risky lawsuits but also helps you keep your process fair and in line 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. Every facet of tenant-landlord interactions is covered by the act. The FFHA prohibits landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants based on, along with other factors, their race, sex, religion, family status, or disability. The FFHA explicitly prohibits landlords from misconstruing the usage of a rental home to a tenant or from imposing stricter requirements on specific tenants. This includes needing a larger security deposit from specific tenants or evicting a tenant for a reason that would not lead to the eviction of another tenant. 

Penalties for Discrimination 

There may be serious repercussions for violating FFHA. For their first offense of the Fair Housing Act, a property owner, for instance, could be hit with a maximum civil penalty of $21,663. 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 sanctions is reason enough to ensure that your applicant screening process does not discriminate against any applicants. 

Strategies for Legal Tenant Screening 

It’s crucial to have a clear set of guidelines for every interaction with prospective or current tenants to guarantee that your screening process is both thorough and legal. 

Clarify Approval Criteria. It’s necessary to take measures to keep everything FFHA-compliant because tenant screening commences with the very first meeting you have with someone searching to apply for your rental property. It’s important to mention your approval standards and expectations throughout the first conversation. 

Avoid Illegal Questions. Keep an eye out for questions that might compel your tenant to reveal protected information while conducting the tenant screening process. Normally, it is improper to ask a prospective tenant questions about their ancestry, race, or nationality. For inquiries regarding a disability or family situation, the same is valid. Such inquiries shouldn’t be made in conversation or on your application materials unless the tenant specifically brings them up. 

Examine Your Approval Process. It’s essential to examine your screening process for any additional potential forms of discrimination. For instance, Beebe property managers should typically accept and review tenant applications in the order that they are received. Discrimination occurs when you gather applications and keep them on file while you wait for someone else to apply. You should move forward with the screening process for an applicant if they have presented all of their required paperwork and the required fees. It is acceptable to reject an applicant based on predetermined standards, such as a low credit score or unfavorable 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. Finally, every landlord should be fully aware of the regulations in place in their region regarding the rental of people with criminal records. Not all criminal violations are sufficient grounds to refuse to rent to a person, so it is essential to understand which ones are and to change your tenant screening process appropriately. 

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. Your community will receive fair housing as a result, and you will be able to avoid any fines or legal action. 

In need of property management advice, or perhaps you’d prefer to have another person manage your property entirely? Dial 501-404-0674 to reach Real Property Management Delta or contact us online right now!

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.

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