Today we are talking about fair housing regulations, and how the laws apply when it comes to screening prospective tenants and interviewing people for your rental property. There is a difference between federal fair housing laws and state fair housing laws, and in San Diego, you have to pay attention to both.
Federal fair housing laws prohibit you from discriminating against any applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability. Fair housing laws in the state of California prohibit discrimination for all of those reasons as well as the following:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Source of income
- Medical condition
- Gender identity
- Gender expression
- Genetic information
That’s a lot of words and phrases to remember, isn’t it? The safest approach to avoiding any fair housing problems is to determine what your qualifying criteria is, and then apply it to all applicants across the board. If you are requiring an income that is three times the monthly rent, you need to require it from everybody who applies.
Here is an example of the type of situation I hear from clients frequently:
“I have a two bedroom condo and I don’t want more than two people living there, especially if they have kids. It’s just too small of a place and, well, you know how kids can be.”
This is a flagrant violation of fair housing laws and an owner putting these kinds of restrictions on their rental property could end up on the other end of a fair housing complaint and even possible fines.
Also, if you have a no-pets policy, remember that policy cannot apply to service animals or companion pets. A landlord is legally unable to refuse to rent a home to a person who needs a service animal.
The bottom line and the safest approach is to seek advice and assistance from a property management professional who knows the law and has received training in fair housing regulations. If you decide you would rather lease your property on your own, my advice would be to train yourself to put blinders on when it comes to putting your property on the rental market. Do not evaluate a tenant based on how they look or their family make-up or how they earn an income. Look strictly at their qualifications and make sure you apply the same criteria to everyone who applies.
We have a Application Criteria form on our website, which you might find useful. Please take a look, and if you have any questions, contact me at Walters Home Management.