We see a lot of mistakes with fair housing among landlords who are managing their own properties. No one sets out to discriminate intentionally, but it’s easy to misunderstand the laws and make innocent mistakes. Today, we’re sharing the top 10 fair housing mistakes we see rental property owners and investors make.
- Not knowing fair housing laws.
If you don’t already know what the fair housing laws are in the U.S. and in Texas, it’s your job to learn. Read the federal Fair Housing Act and spend some time researching the HUD.gov website. You cannot plead ignorance when you’re charged with discrimination. It’s your job to know these laws.
- Misunderstanding protected classes.
There are seven protected classes in the federal fair housing laws. You cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, handicap, sex, familial status, and national origin. Memorize these seven categories of people.
- Bad advertising.
You might market your property as “great for single professionals.” It doesn’t seem discriminatory, but it is. It violates the familial status part of the fair housing laws. Watch what you say when you market your property. You don’t want to invite or dissuade certain groups of people.
- Forgetting to put rental criteria in writing.
One way to protect yourself from charges of discrimination during the screening process is with written rental criteria. This tells every potential applicant what is required, and if you deny an application, you can point out which criteria was not met.
- Inconsistent screening.
You need to screen every application the same way. If you make a special exception for one applicant but not the other, you could be accused of discrimination.
- Asking illegal questions.
When you’re showing a home, you can ask how many people will be living in the property, but you cannot ask if the applicant has any children. You cannot ask if a potential tenant goes to church. Don’t ask anything that can potentially put you at risk for violating fair housing laws.
- Misunderstanding service and support animals.
If a tenant has a service animal or an emotional support animal, you cannot treat it as a pet. This means you cannot collect a pet deposit, charge a pet fee, or ask for additional pet rent every month.
- Prohibiting children’s activities.
Posting signs at your property that prohibit children from riding bikes or playing outside is illegal and violates fair housing laws. You cannot treat tenants without children differently than you treat tenants with children.
- Not accommodating people with disabilities.
You’re required by the fair housing laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This might mean providing a handicapped parking space or installing special rails in the shower.
- Lack of training.
Most of the mistakes made in fair housing are due to a lack of training. Get to know the laws, and stay up to date on their changes.
If you have any questions about tenants rights, how to avoid housing discrimination or you wish to talk to a professional, please contact us at CrossPointe Management.