Are you up to date on the Fair Housing Laws? Both federal and state anti-discrimination laws need to be adhered to on a regular basis in order to prevent potential lawsuits from crippling your property management company. Fair Housing laws clearly state that you cannot take specific actions against rental applicants based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. These actions include refusing to rent a property, setting different rental terms for specific applicants, or providing different housing services for some renters.
While outright discrimination is easily avoided, there are some gray areas that may get your property management company into trouble, and possibly even a lawsuit. Here are some ways you can reduce that risk:
Establish a set policy and abide by it at all times and make sure that your employees adhere to the policy as well. For example, when screening applicants, be sure to run a credit check on all applicants, not just a few select individuals. Keep all applicant credit reports in order to support your decision to rent/not rent to someone.
Be sure to check any relevant references and verify current employment status. This information can be key in determining whether you should rent to someone. It will also prove in a lawsuit that the same procedures have been followed for all applicants.
Provide your employees with the information and tools they need to make the proper rental decisions. Although questionable applicants should run by senior personnel, all employees that represent your management company in any capacity should have full knowledge of all Fair Housing rules and regulations.
Document the reason(s) why you turn down an applicant. Bad credit history, criminal history, lack of funds, a history of slow rent payments are all sufficient reasons for denying a rental application. Just make sure that you have the necessary documentation to back up that decision.
Quality of service must be the same across the board. You cannot pick and choose who you respond to based on any other criteria than urgency of the problem.
Check out the Fair Housing website for additional information. Make sure that all staff that interacts with rental applicants has access to the site.
Basing your rental decisions on good business practices and documenting it accordingly can keep your property management company free from claims of discrimination and a possible lawsuit.