Q&A: Is This Tenant Discrimination?

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on April 1, 2011 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenantscreeningblog.com, tenant credit checkQuestion: A landlord accepts applications from three potential roommates for a three-bedroom rental unit. The first two check out fine. The third proves to be difficult and unpleasant, even borderline verbally abusive, in all her interactions with the landlord. He decides to not even order a tenant credit report and rejects all three applicants. Is the landlord allowed to refuse a tenant for reasons other than a credit score?

Answer: Of course. A landlord may decline an applicant for any reason other than those covered under the Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians), pregnant women, elderly people, people securing custody of children and handicap (disability).

A landlord does not have to disclose reasons for rejecting a tenant—you can simply say a more qualified applicant was approved. (Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA, a letter must be sent to an applicant if credit is declined, including for rental housing)

Question: A landlord advertises a rental property using the following language:

For Rent. 3BR apartment, 3rd floor. Not suitable for kids or elderly.

Is this discriminatory?

Answer: Yes. See above: landlords may not deny housing based on family status or age. This landlord could get in big trouble for this type of ad.

Question: A landlord starts eviction proceedings after discovering a tenant has kept a cat in her apartment—contrary to the lease, which states no animals are allowed. The tenant tells the landlord that she needs the cat because it is a therapy animal. Is the landlord discriminating against the tenant based on a disability?

Answer: It often depends on where the rental property is located. In most areas, a tenant must provide proof that the therapy or companion animal is necessary for the individual’s mental health or stability. This is usually a statement by a medical provider. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not include companion, emotional support or therapy animals, because they have not been trained to perform tasks that benefit a disabled person.

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