Violating fair housing law doesn’t come without consequences. Fair housing violations can result in serious financial penalties that increase for...
If an individual has decided to rent out and self-manage a property, one of the first things they should look into is the fair housing laws in their state. Fair housing laws can impact a lot, from how you advertise the property, to how you select a tenant and more.
Below we share some key fair housing laws that all self-managing landlords should be aware of.
How you advertise your property matters.
When you are listing the property online to alert potential tenants that you have an available unit, the language you use matters. While it may be tempting to describe your ideal tenant, or describe the type of individual who you be believe would most enjoy the area, these types of descriptions could potentially violate fair housing laws.
For example, if you state that you are looking for a single, professional male in his 30’s to occupy the home, this could indirectly tell others not to apply for the unit. Fair housing law prohibits you from selecting a tenant based on protected classes, such as age, gender, where they receive their income from (what would entail a “professional” versus other types of employment) and more.
It’s in a self-managing landlord’s best interest to simply keep any descriptions about the property itself, monthly rental cost, and directions on where to apply.
Selecting a tenant comes with guidelines.
Like we shared above, discriminating against protect classes or prioritizing certain traits over others could violate fair housing laws in your area. Some of the protected classes that you should be mindful of are marital status, sexual orientation, religious background, ethnic background, race, whether or not they have children or will have minors residing in the home, personal characteristics (this could include both physical characteristics as well as whether or not the tenant receives public assistance), gender, or physical or mental disabilities.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to accept the first person that applies for the unit! Landlords are allowed to reject tenants based on certain factors, such as a low credit score or poor references from previous landlords. This can vary depending on the location of the rental unit.
In general, a landlord should not select a tenant, but rather should screen them. A landlord cannot select a tenant based on who they believe would be the “best fit” or who they personally enjoyed the most. By taking fair housing laws into account and focusing on screening for disqualifiers such as a poor credit score, and not selecting based on personal judgements or opinions, self-managing landlords can avoid legal repercussions.
Your lease should be compliant with fair housing laws.
Many landlords may not realize what they can and cannot include in a lease agreement. For example, if a landlord wants to maintain a pet-free property, this is allowed. Because service animals and emotional support animals are not considered animals, it is still required that they be accepted and a lease agreement cannot exclude them.
Violating fair housing laws can come with serious financial or legal repercussions. Depending on your location, there may be additional or differing fair housing laws. We recommend that all self-managing landlords look at local, state and federal laws regarding owning a rental property to ensure they are compliant. To learn more about fair housing laws in California, you can visit the CA.Gov Fair Employment and Housing page, here. If you want to learn more about being a self-managing landlord, visit our podcast, The Accidental Landlord!