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Seven Tips to Understanding Fair Housing Laws When Placing Tenants

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

As a landlord or property manager, it's important to understand fair housing laws when placing tenants. Fair housing laws are designed to prevent discrimination against tenants based on certain protected characteristics, such as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

Familiarize yourself with the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on certain protected characteristics. It applies to most types of housing, including rental housing.

Know the protected characteristics

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability. Some states and municipalities have additional protected characteristics, such as sexual orientation or gender identity.

Understand the application process

When screening tenants, you cannot ask questions or request information that may reveal a tenant's protected characteristics. This includes questions about marital status, family status, religion, disability, and other personal information.

Use objective criteria

When evaluating potential tenants, use objective criteria such as credit scores, income, rental history, and criminal history. These criteria should be applied consistently to all applicants.

Accommodate disabilities

Landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. This may include modifying a unit or building to make it accessible, allowing a service animal, or making other adjustments to ensure that tenants with disabilities have equal access to housing.

Avoid discriminatory advertising

When advertising a rental property, avoid language or images that may suggest a preference for or against a particular group of people. For example, using phrases such as "ideal for young professionals" may be considered discriminatory.

Train your staff

Make sure that everyone involved in the tenant placement process, including leasing agents and maintenance staff, understands fair housing laws and how to comply with them.

You can ensure that you are placing tenants in a way that is fair, objective, and compliant with fair housing laws. Remember to treat all applicants equally and avoid any actions or statements that may be perceived as discriminatory.


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