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Questions You Cannot Ask Prospective Tenants

When tenants choose not to renew their lease it begins a stressful, time consuming and potentially expensive process for their current landlord.

Part of the stress about searching for new tenants is whether or not a prospective tenant will treat your property with respect and pay rent on time.

During the process of finding a new tenant time constraints may lead landlords or property managers to try to target who they think might be the best tenants by asking several questions.

Landlords and property managers must be careful because there are questions they may not ask during the process of finding new tenants as these questions violate the Federal Fair Housing Act. Below is a list of questions that seem harmless but can actually open a landlord or property manager up to a major lawsuit under the Federal Fair Housing Act.

  • What country were you born in?

  • You cannot ask questions during the tenant screening process that are related to someone’s race because according to the Fair Housing Act you cannot base rental decisions on race. Even asking someone their country of origin due to curiosity about someone’s accent can mistakenly be viewed as racism if you reject their tenant application after asking them about where they were born.

  • Any Questions about potential tenants’ children

  • Discrimination based on someone’s familial status is also illegal according to the Fair Housing Act. If you do not accept a tenant after you have asked if they want children, asked about current children, how old are their children and how many children they have, they can accuse you of discriminating against them based on their familial status.

  • Have you ever been arrested?

  • You cannot ask whether someone has been arrested as many people are arrested and let go and not even charged with a crime. Landlords should focus on whether any potential tenant has been convicted of a felony.

  • How old are you?

  • Some landlords may prefer tenants of a certain age who they know can easily maintain the apartment and may not be as high maintenance. Landlords however cannot ask potential tenants how old they are unless the rental property is in a 55+ community.

The safest strategy for screening tenants while decreasing your chance of being accused of discrimination is to have a standard tenant screening application available in your that you can give to potential tenants. As part of the screening, landlord and property managers should also ask prospective tenants to include 2-3 references, such as former landlords. You can then store this information in your and make the appropriate determination on whether to accept the applicants. This post is provided by RISSOFT Residential and Commercial Property Management Software, specializing in innovative and cutting-edge property management software for all 50 states. Request a demo or contact us today to receive more information. Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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