Fair Housing Laws – How Tenant Screening Background Checks Can Help You Treat Everyone Equal

Fair housing laws are passed to help eliminate discrimination based on race, color, religion, familial status, disability and in some cases age and sexual orientation. As a landlord being aware of fair housing laws is not a recommendation it’s an absolute must.

How can you protect yourself from facing the unsavory charges of discrimination? One way to avoid big trouble is by using a background check to make your decisions on potential tenants well-thought out and fair.

1. Require the same information for background checks from all applicants

Before running a background check have a list of information you require from all applicants. Above all else, ensure that you never ask one individual from a protected class for information that you do not ask of others. For instance, asking an Hispanic applicant for a W-2 while not requesting this documentation from a white applicant would be in direct violation of fair housing laws. Be consistent with all of your potential renters.

2. When being consistent, background checks provide quantitative reasons to select tenants

Staying out of the boiling hot water of discrimination is much easier when you have solid, numerical proof that backs up your decision-making process. Craft a list of specific qualifications that all of your acceptable applicants must meet. If necessary, you can provide quantitative proof that you are not discriminating. Again, it’s of the highest priority to require the same measurables be met by all of your applicants that are protected.

3. Numbers are a landlord’s best friend

Regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion or age, when you have a set of numbers that assist you in making a decision you are already putting yourself ahead of the discrimination game. Using solid data instead of gut feelings is not only wise it can also help you avoid even the appearance of discriminating against a protected class. If an applicant has missed several months of paying rent or even worse, has an eviction on their record, this makes your job easier in removing them from consideration. Even if that individual falls under the legal umbrella of a protected class.

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