Landlord Rights: Can You Choose the Tenant You Want?
Choosing the right tenant isn’t as easy as accepting applications. You want to protect your property from irresponsible tenants, but, at the same time, some of that wariness can look like discrimination, and potential tenants are careful to protect their rights against unlawful restrictions. Tenants have rights, too. Learn about your rights as a landlord and what potential tenants can expect.
Understanding Fair Housing
Before you start choosing tenants, make sure you understand discriminatory practices and the rules that protect applicants from them. The Federal Fair Housing Act protects applicants on basis of:
· National origin
· Familial status
· Physical or mental disability
· Marital status
· Sexual orientation
Check Background Information
Landlords have the right to investigate their tenants. Information such as credit scores, income, and bank account information is a great way to determine whether a tenant will pay rent on time, protect your property, and otherwise be a responsible tenant. Obtaining background information does not break any anti-discrimination laws.
You can’t determine a person’s character and personality based on their financial information, so there are other things to consider. Always check an applicant’s references to get any additional information about his or her behavior, personality, and other habits. This method can help you weed out any destructive or troublesome tenants before they cause any damage.
As a landlord, you have the right to reject an applicant if they cannot pay rent in a timely manner, lack funds for a security deposit, or fail the conditions of the tenancy. Some of the valid business-related reasons for rejecting a prospective tenant include:
· Bad credit history
· Insufficient income to make necessary payments
· History of property damage
· History of late payments
When making these decisions, keep everything as objective as possible instead of letting personal bias influence your choices. You may like a potential tenant, but if he or she has a history of late payments, don’t expect anything different.
Perhaps the most important part of applying your rules and standards when seeking out potential tenants is to practice consistency. If you are going to look for a specific requirement or establish a particular rule, make sure your policy applies to every applicant that comes your way.
Consistency prevents ambiguity, and ambiguity in the enforcement of the rules can lead to charges of discrimination, even if unintentional. For instance, accepting applicants out of the order they applied doesn’t seem like blatant discrimination. However, that small inconsistency plants the seeds of doubt for a fair process and sets you up for discrimination accusations. Allowing someone to turn in rent late also can appear as an act of kindness. On the other hand, other tenants might see that gesture as preferential treatment.