As a landlord who owns a rental property in Dallas, you need to be aware of the Fair Housing Act. Violation of this act can result in large fines. The Fair Housing Act is an egalitarian law that provides an equal opportunity for everyone to be a buyer, seller, lender, and renter.
The Fair Housing Act is a prohibition on housing discrimination against a particular group or class. Its objective is to provide equality to everyone who desires to own, rent, or mortgage a property without prejudice.
It’s also known as Title VIII of Civil Rights Act of 1968. It protects everyone from being discriminated against by landlords, realtors, sellers, and other influential groups when they buy, sell, or rent a property.
Let us take a further look at exactly what you need to know about the Fair Housing Act
Who is Protected Under the Fair Housing Act?
These protected classes cannot be discriminated against when they are applying to rent in your property:
- Familial status (e.g. having children under 18, pregnant women)
- National origin
Landlords must have a fair, clear, and consistent tenant screening process that is applied to every applicant. You can only reject potential renters or evict tenants for legitimate reasons that do not discriminate against a protected class.
Many states have fair housing laws and it is worthwhile for a landlord to research the current policies. If you have several properties, it is vital that you are constantly updated to avoid costly repercussions. Each state holds its own anti-discrimination laws, which also cover a wider spectrum than just the protected classes under the Fair Housing Act.
The Objective of the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act seeks to end discrimination against the protected classes when they want to rent a property. A landlord can’t:
- Refuse to rent his property to a quality applicant.
- Lie about the availability of his property for rent.
- Make a different set of requirements and conditions for renting.
- Limit accommodations or amenities of his property.
- Advertise a preference for renting his property to a person’s particular background or close it against a protected class.
Who Enforces the Fair Housing Act?
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is tasked to enforce the Fair Housing Act. There are a couple of ways they check to see if a landlord is following this policy:
- Posing as potential tenants
They will respond to your advertisement and may call or meet you in person.
- Responding to discrimination complaints
They will investigate an individual’s claim about being discriminated against. They will carefully go over the case and take legal actions against the landlord if they find the complaint valid.
How to Avoid Discrimination Claims
As a landlord, it is vital that you avoid discrimination issues in order to prevent conflicts and avoid further expenses. Additionally, lawsuits can hamper the smooth operation of your rental property business.
- Exercise caution
Always review your marketing ads and be careful with how your message comes across. What you say in person (or through a phone call or your marketing campaign) will always have an effect. Be certain that you are not discriminating against any protected classes.
- Be consistent with tenant criteria
When you screen tenants, ensure the same standards are set for everyone. All potential tenants must go through the same rigorous assessment.
Background checks, credit history, and financial assessments must be fairly completed for each applicant. No one is excluded from submitting the same documentation, such as bank statements and references. The fees must also be the same to exercise fairness to all.
- Assume HUD staff is always checking
Treat everyone in the same manner: accord the same respect and dignity to each applicant no matter their race, religion, and color. When you do this, you will never have any reason to fear you are violating the Fair Housing Act.
When Can You Deny Renting to a Tenant?
- Poor credit
If an applicant has a low credit score, rejecting them is permitted. As a prospective tenant, they are responsible for their finances. Poor credit can mean they do not make payments on time and could signify a significant debt obligation. It could also indicate that they have a history of bankruptcy or foreclosure.
- Unable to pay
If, upon reviewing your potential tenant’s financial documents, you find that they are barely making enough to pay the rent, you may legitimately refuse to rent your property to them. A tenant must be able to pay their monthly rent. They must make at least three times more than the required monthly rental. Review all the submitted financial information and credit reports. It is a landlord’s right to accept a financially qualified tenant.
- Has a pet when you have a no-pet policy
Every landlord has a different policy when it comes to being a pet-friendly rental property. Some allow restrictions according to the pet’s size and breed. If a potential renter has a pet or one that doesn’t meet your pet requirements, it is a justified reason to reject the application.
However, an exception to this rule is a service animal. When your prospective renter has a disability and needs the support of a pet, then denying them the rental is unlawful.
- False information
If you find that a potential tenant is falsifying information or offering misleading documentation, it is your right to deny them. Assess their documents thoroughly and check all the information they provide to ensure they are not hiding an insufficient income or declaring fake references.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, as a landlord, you must check for a person’s creditworthiness when they plan to rent your property. You must avoid discriminating against their skin color, disability, familial status, national origin, race, sex, and religion.
If any of this seems daunting to you, don’t hesitate to contact us at (214) 414 – 1769.