As a property owner, using a background check service will ensure that you follow all rules and laws with regard to fair housing regulations and are never charged with discrimination by prospective tenants.
Fair housing laws forbid discrimination based on race, color, religion, family status, disability, and in some situations, age and sexual orientation. For landlords, being aware of the laws is not enough, you must also be sure to follow them and avoid even the appearance of discrimination. Using a background check service is the best way to do this, because it ensures that every prospective tenant is treated fairly and in accordance with the law. And of course, doing a background check also means that you will have thought through your decision on a tenant carefully, and thoroughly.
Ask for the Same Information: Be Consistent
Before you start your background check on a potential tenant, make sure to have a list detailing all of the information you will require from them. Above all, be sure to ask everyone the same information. It is not ok to ask some questions only from a protected class of people, but not ask for the same information of others. For example, if you ask a Hispanic applicant for a copy of their W2 form, you should also this of a white applicant. You must be consistent in the questions you ask of every prospective tenant.
Ugly Charge of Discrimination
It is much easier to avoid the ugly charge of discrimination if you ask the same information from all of your tenants. This is because you have solid data to bolster your decision making process, and that also demonstrates why a tenant was selected. Make a detailed list of all of your requirements and use it every time you screen a tenant. If you are ever asked to show you are not discriminating, this list is the proof.
Numbers are Your Best Friend
If you have a set of numbers and data to guide you in selecting a tenant, you are immediately protected from any perception of discriminating against a protected class, because it is clear to everyone that the numbers and data are the criteria, and not anything else. And, of course, besides avoiding the appearance of discrimination, it is just good practice to base such an important decision on number and fact, and not your gut feeling alone. It is easier to remove a potential tenant from your list if you know, from a good screening process, that they are frequently several months behind on their rent, or even worse, have been evicted in the past. This is true, even if the potential tenant is a member of a protected class.