As a landlord, you have the right to conduct adequate research on your potential tenant. Besides, you’d want to have someone who will pay their rent on time and abide by your leasing rules.
However, you must know that fair housing laws prohibit some questions when screening your applicants. And asking them may invite a lawsuit, especially when the tenants believe the questions are offensive.
Whether verbally or in written form, you must avoid:
Race, Nationality, or Neighbor Preferences Related Questions
The Federal Antidiscrimination Law, specifically the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 42 U.S, prohibits landlords from discriminating their tenants against their races and color. Therefore, never include a question about race in your rental leasing form.
Similarly, the anti-discrimination laws help protect minorities from rental denials. The FHA doesn’t allow landlords to ask tenants questions about their nationality, where they were born, the language they speak, and where their other children were born.
Such questions are illegal and can get you in a lot of trouble, like accumulating fines and other punitive damages fees. Never include questions about a tenant’s birthplace, home, and cultural upbringing.
Gender and Sexuality Related Questions
You invite trouble by asking tenants about their ability to pay their rent based on gender. The FHA considers that as a form of discrimination, and it’s punishable.
However, federal law does not prohibit questions concerning sexual orientation. But some jurisdictions like California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New Mexico, among others, term such questions illegal.
So, check with your states and abide by the rules. Even better, choose to avoid the sexual orientation-based question at all costs.
Questions Concerning Religion
FHA prohibits landlords from asking religious questions. This gives the applicants the right to rent a house regardless of spiritual practices.
Ensure you refrain from displaying any religious symbolism or asking applicants interested in mosques, churches, or synagogues.
Questions Concerning About Family Status
Although the FHA allows landlords to limit the number of unit occupants, you must not discriminate against your applicants based on their family status. Unless your rentals are under the Old person exemption, don’t ask questions that dislike renting to people with children.
That said, avoid questions that ask if the applicant has children or plans to have children in the near future.
Arrest Related Questions
Many states allow landlords to ask if prospective tenants had previously been convicted of any crime. However, you’re not allowed to ask about a person’s prior arrests because that doesn’t indicate they committed or were guilty of the crime.
Again, some states will allow tenants to access houses even if they were convicted. For instance, Oregon landlords won’t deny an applicant, primarily if the crime occurred three years before the date of application.
Questions Concerning Physical and Mental Disability
The FHA prohibits landlords from denying to lease to applicants based on their physical or mental disability. Avoid discriminating or asking questions that revolve around one’s disability state.
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