Fair Housing laws prevent discrimination in rental housing. If you’re renting out a Dallas-Fort Worth property, you’ll need to know the very basics because these laws impact the way you market your home, screen your tenants, and manage the rental process.
We don’t know a lot of people who set out to intentionally discriminate. But, the way you write a listing can create a perception of preferring one type of tenant over another. Holding one applicant to a different standard than another applicant can also look discriminatory.
Fair housing violations are expensive and they’ll also seriously damage your reputation as a Dallas-Fort Worth landlord. Make sure you understand fair housing requirements so you can avoid potential risk, liability, and lawsuits.
Discrimination Laws Start with the Federal Fair Housing Act
The federal Fair Housing Act prevents you from discriminating against tenants or applicants based on the following protected classes:
- Familial status
- National origin
Mistakes are easy to make. Be cautious, be consistent, and document every process that shows you aren’t likely to make discriminatory decisions. We recommend that you reach out to a Dallas-Fort Worth property manager or an attorney if there’s a question or an accusation and you’re in doubt about how you should proceed.
Compliant Marketing and Advertising
Marketing is the way you attract tenants to your property. It’s important to advertise aggressively when you want to minimize vacancy times and attract the best possible tenant. Any of your listings, marketing materials, or signs need to comply with fair housing laws.
When you’re marketing your rental home, you can include details in your listing that discuss the home’s size, what the rent will be per month, when the home will be ready for occupancy, and what the property’s benefits are.
You cannot say it would be “great for bachelors.” You cannot say it’s close to churches. This type of language can be seen as discriminatory against several of the law’s protected classes.
Keep your rental property marketing accessible to everyone who is qualified.
Keep your advertising focused on what the property is and what it has to offer. Don’t make assumptions about who would want to live there and don’t talk about the types of tenants you would prefer.
Fair Housing and Tenant Screening
Put together standard rental criteria or a set of qualifications, and document it in writing.
Provide this criterion to any tenant who is interested in filling out an application for your property. Then, make sure you follow your own standards consistently every time you screen a potential tenant.
You have to screen each application against the same requirements, otherwise, you could be accused of discrimination. Denying one applicant because of a 580 credit score is not going to hold up in court if the tenant you eventually place has a 550 credit score. Be consistent.
Set up the standards you seek in terms of credit, income, criminal history, and rental references. This will make it easy for you to move through the application process because you’ll know exactly who is approved and who is not just by objectively looking at the data.
Service and Companion Animals and Fair Housing
As a landlord, you can decide whether or not to allow pets in your Dallas-Fort Worth rental property. You’re not discriminating against anyone when you say no to pets.
However, you cannot deny tenants service or support animals. The fair housing laws do not consider those animals as pets. They are, instead, accommodations. This means you have to allow them. It also means you cannot charge a pet fee or pet rent.
Fair housing laws can be difficult to navigate, and they change frequently. If you don’t have the time or the resources to stay up to date, contact us at Assign Property Management. We can help you stay compliant and out of legal danger.