Always Avoid These Topics in the Rental Application Process
During what seems like a casual conversation with a prospective tenant, many harmless questions can actually violate their rights protected by the Fair Housing Act. It is important to avoid these topics at all times on both the rental application and in conversation. It simply is never worth it to casually ask applicants about any of these topics, especially when the potential consequences for violating the Fair Housing Act include fines in excess of $16,000 and additional compensatory damages.
4 Topics You Never Discuss With Prospective Tenants
It is perfectly ok to ask applicants if they have pets, but it is against the law to ask if they have a service animal. This can be interpreted as a potential reason to discriminate against the applicant based on a disability. If you have a no pet policy, it is, however, perfectly acceptable to ask the applicant to prove the certification status of their service animal.
2. National Origin
This is a topic where the applicant could claim their answer was used as a basis to discriminate against their application. Do not ask prospective tenants what country they are from on the application or in casual conversation. Even something as simple as, “That’s a great accent, what country are you from?“, could open the door for a discrimination claim.
“We have a few churches in the neighborhood.” This simple statement could open the door for a discrimination claim because it could create the perception you only rent to Christians. Like the other topics on this list, religion is one that cannot be brought up during the rental application process.
Finally, avoid any questions about children and the applicant’s family unit in general. This is another one that can come up easily in casual conversation, especially if the applicant is asking about local amenities such as schools or parks. While it is a violation to ask about the family unit, it is not illegal to ask “How many occupants do you plan on housing?”
Now that we covered 4 topics you never discuss with prospective tenants, check out these 5 Great Questions to Ask Every Prospective Tenant.
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