As a landlord, you have to understand fair housing. This is an area that gets a lot of people who are not professional property managers in trouble. It even trips up some professionals. You do not want the feds at HUD (Housing and Urban Development) on the other side of you during an argument about housing. They have lots of attorneys and it’s never a good thing.
There are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself and ensure you are in compliance with all fair housing laws. First, use Google to look up the Fair Housing Law. You can access great information on HUD’s website, which is about 20 pages. It will tell you what areas you must pay attention to when it comes to avoiding discrimination. You also have to have a written policy of non-discrimination. Follow that policy always. The exception you make is the place you will get in trouble.
Sometimes, we say in our office that no good turn goes unpunished. It will be the one time you give somebody a break from your rules that you get in trouble. You might not consider that making an exception for one person can be seen as discriminatory against another person, who did not receive the same exception. Have a set of logical rules you are willing to follow, and hold all of your prospective tenants to those rules. Put them in writing and make sure everyone follows them. If you make just one exception, you have really undone all your policies.
Another thing to make sure you know when it comes to your application policy and guidelines is your qualifying ratio. Know that number, and also make sure you know what credit score you are looking for. Be very clear and again – have it written down. You want to be in solid position so that if a tester from HUD or one of your local agencies happens to come into your office, or show up at a house where you are doing a showing and asks to see your written guidelines, you are able to provide those immediately. Make sure those guidelines are reasonable and make sure they are not discriminatory. Follow them. It will keep you out of a world of trouble.
If you have any questions about fair housing laws or property management in general, please contact us at Aborn Properties.