The FHA: Are You Complying?
As a landlord, there is a set of rules and regulations that you must follow. Failing to do so can leave you in a heap of trouble. In addition to state and local laws, you must abide by the laws set forth in the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
This Act determines things that you cannot say or address with tenants, questions you may not ask, and ways in which you may not discriminate. If you are a landlord, you need to be aware of these laws – and abide by them.
Are you complying? Let’s find out.
Advertising and marketing your property
To find tenants, you have to list the property for rent. But, sometimes it takes more than just a sign to get the response you need. Be sure your ads state only the details of the property. DO NOT include anything about the family you are hoping to rent to or who you think would be a perfect tenant. You should always end your ad with a disclaimer stating that you do not discriminate.
Showing the property
You should show all areas of the property to everyone the same. It is illegal to try to steer a potential tenant toward certain areas or units while trying to avoid showing them other areas.
This is a huge part of the FHA laws, resulting in the majority of the claims that are filed. To protect yourself, you will want to make sure you have your rental criteria in writing. This should be readily available to show any potential renter during the application process. These may include employment history, income limits, credit scores, rental history, etc. During the application process, avoid asking about any physical or mental disabilities, as well as alcohol use or any other personal questions.
The entire process for choosing a tenant should clearly be objective, not subjective.
Because the statute of limitations on many potential lawsuits does not expire right away, it is important that you organize your office with a system to track the tenant application process. This includes those that apply and become tenants and those that do not. You never know what may arise, so it is best to have a set of records that you can reflect upon if need be.
Limited English Proficiency
If your only fluent language is English, then you may be hesitant to rent to someone with limited knowledge of the English language. And, you may do so without thinking too much of it. However, if you do, you may be in violation of the FHA as of 2016.
These are only a few of the many important points discussed in the Fair Housing Act. Do yourself a favor and read through this Act to learn all the things you should and shouldn’t be doing to protect yourself from being the subject of any claims.
Marina Shlomov, a managing partner at ALH|Podland Realty & Rental Homes Property Management is the author of many articles on Landlording, Property Management, and Real Estate Investing. A residential builder in the state of Georgia since 1999, Marina is an investor herself. Her property management company is intended “For Investors” and “By Investors” for a simple reason – she knows what investors’ goals are and she works hard to reach their goals. In her spare time, Marina likes to spend time with her family, friends, garden, read and travel. Check her out at www.alhpodland.com. You can find Marina’s articles and comments at @rentalhomesatl on Twitter, on Facebook, Google+, Blogger. and YouTube,Bigger Pockets and REI Club and LinkedIn.