What you Say to Perspective Tenants Can Come Back to Haunt You

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on March 30, 2010 under General | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

iStock_000009636788XSmall1-300x199A real estate brokerage in Las Vegas, one of its agents, and the owners of a rental home were all recently sued in federal court for discrimination. Here’s what allegedly happened:

Back in 2008, a woman tried to rent a home the realty company listed. She says she was rejected because she told the agent she had applied to adopt three children, adding to the three she already had living with her. If true, this is a clear violation of the Fair Housing Act.

She alleges the agent replied that they were “hoping to rent to someone without children,” or something to that effect. The home was eventually rented to a family with one child.

What did the agent do wrong? Plenty: It is illegal to make rental housing unavailable or deny rental housing because of family status, under the Fair Housing Act. His statement, if true, violates the FHA.

The real estate company denies the allegations, and says there is no evidence to support them. Their side of the story is that the prospective tenant refused to pay the asking rent.

While there are always people who look for a lawsuit around every corner, and every suit has two sides, there is no doubt that being sued is no fun. It can cost landlords plenty of time and money. Even if you’re completely innocent, proving that is a big hassle. And what about the bad publicity? Innocent, defendants can suffer negative reactions for months or years to come.

The best way to avoid this type of lawsuit is to watch everything you say to prospective tenants. Don’t ask about their personal situation. Keep every conversation and interaction 100% professional. If they ask if the neighborhood is safe, have them look up local crime statistics online. If they ask if you like kids, tell them what you think about kids doesn’t matter, and that your job is to make sure the rental units are rented fairly no matter what the applicant’s family situation.

Base decisions to accept or reject each tenant applicant on the same factors: proper income level, verified employment and income, acceptable credit history check, passing criminal background screening, and any other verification you require.

Don’t judge any books by their covers—the scariest-looking people sometimes make the most peaceful, easiest tenants. And Mr. and Mrs. Clean could be hiding some scary secrets behind their appearance. In the landlord business—you just never know.

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