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Balancing Fair Housing Laws and Tenant Screening

Updated: Nov 6, 2023


Tenant screening is an essential process for landlords and property managers. It helps ensure that you select responsible, reliable, and suitable tenants for your rental property. However, tenant screening must be carried out in compliance with fair housing laws to prevent discrimination and uphold equal housing opportunities for all. In this blog post, we'll explore the delicate balance between tenant screening and fair housing laws and provide insights into how landlords can navigate this crucial aspect of property management.


The Importance of Fair Housing Laws


Fair housing laws are in place to prevent discrimination and ensure that every individual has an equal opportunity to secure housing. These laws protect individuals from discrimination based on several protected characteristics, including:

  • Race

  • Color

  • National Origin

  • Religion

  • Sex

  • Familial Status (such as having children)

  • Disability

In addition to federal laws, many states and localities have their own fair housing regulations that may include additional protected characteristics, such as sexual orientation and gender identity.


Balancing Tenant Screening with Fair Housing Laws

  • Objective Screening Criteria: Develop and apply objective screening criteria consistently to all applicants. Criteria should be related to an applicant's ability to fulfill their lease obligations, such as credit history, rental history, income, and criminal background.

  • Uniform Application Process: Ensure that all applicants go through the same application process. This includes the application form, screening fees, and background checks. Treating all applicants equally helps prevent discrimination.

  • Reasonable Accommodations: Understand and comply with the requirement to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. This may include modifying policies, procedures, or physical accommodations to ensure equal access.

  • Advertising and Marketing: Review your property marketing materials to ensure they do not contain discriminatory language or preferences. Avoid phrases that suggest a preference for or against certain groups.

  • Avoid Steering: Steering occurs when landlords or property managers direct individuals towards or away from specific units or areas based on their protected characteristics. Avoid such practices at all costs.

Criminal Background Checks and Disparate Impact


One area of tenant screening that has received attention in recent years is the use of criminal background checks. According to this Los Angeles property management company while landlords have a legitimate interest in ensuring the safety of their property and other tenants, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued guidance on how criminal background checks can have a disparate impact on certain protected groups.


To navigate this issue, consider the following:

  • Individual Assessment: Rather than having a blanket policy of denying applicants with criminal records, conduct individualized assessments. Consider the nature and severity of the crime, the time that has passed since the conviction, and evidence of rehabilitation.

  • Consult Legal Counsel: Seek legal advice to ensure your criminal background check policy complies with fair housing laws, especially if you are uncertain about how to balance safety concerns with potential discrimination.

Conclusion


Balancing tenant screening with fair housing laws is crucial to ensuring a just and equitable housing environment for all. At Beacon Property Management, we understand the importance of adhering to fair housing laws while conducting thorough tenant screening.


If you're a landlord seeking professional guidance on tenant screening that complies with fair housing laws or looking for a property management partner with expertise in this area, consider partnering with us. Our experienced team can help you navigate the complexities of tenant screening while ensuring compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.


Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in achieving a balanced approach to tenant screening that respects fair housing principles. Your commitment to fairness and equal housing opportunities begins with the right property management partner—reach out to us now!

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