Under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act (click here for Fair Housing resources), it is illegal for landlords to refuse to rent or sell a dwelling based on an applicant’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.

Does your management company base their applicant approvals on documented evidence of an applicant’s ability to pay or not pay, or do other items factor into your decision process?
Fairness and consistency play a large role when screening tenants. It’s important to establish a set of criteria that all staff must follow starting with:

Interpreting the Credit Report
While it’s easy to quickly glance at a credit report and get a sense of an applicant’s risk, many companies look beyond just credit report numbers and consider other factors as well. Just remember that if you are willing to work with an applicant with a low credit score, you must extend that same courtesy to a similar applicant. Whatever your standards are, they must be applied to all applicants.
Income Level
While it’s more work, establishing an income level for each property provides applicants with a well-stated, easily understood rental requirement. For instance, if you rent a 1 bedroom apartment for $700.00 a month, you can establish a minimum income requirement of $2,100.00. If the applicant’s income falls below the required level, they are declined. No exceptions.

Job History
A stable job history is a vital area for property managers to evaluate. It might be helpful to establish a minimum time on the job (i.e. six months) in order to be approved. Again, this may be a tough area to remain consistent on; those new to the area will obviously not have the required time on the job, but their overall job history may indicate stability. Again, if you make an exception for one applicant, be prepared to make an exception for all.

Rental History
Past evictions, consistently late rental payments, and trashed homes in an applicant’s rental history is a cause for concern, and a legitimate basis for denying an application. But remember, these standards must be applied across the board – to all applicants, not just a select group.
Race, disability, cultural background, or familial status should play no role in the decision making process. Knowing Fair Housing Laws, you’ll protect yourself and your company by establishing a consistent screening process and adhering to it. This will ensure that all of your tenants have been qualified in a fair and consistent manner.

Posted on 05. Apr, 2011 by Mary Girsch-Bock in Best Of, Law

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