Picky About Choosing Your Tenants – You May Be in Trouble with the Fair Housing Act

You’ve purchased your first rental home, and now you are ready to start looking for your first tenant. You think to yourself, “I am going to be extremely picky about whom I let rent this house.” However, what you may not realize is how easy it is to run afoul of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act of 1969 was established by the Housing and Urban Development Office or HUD. The intent behind the law was to ensure that everyone had an equal opportunity to buy or rent a home.

You May Not Discriminate

According to this law, as a landlord, you are not allowed to discriminate against a person because of race, sex, religion, familial status, handicaps color, or national origin. However, what exactly does discriminate mean? Here is a list of discriminations provided by HUD.

Based on the facts above, you may not:

  • Refuse to rent to a person
  • Refuse to sell to a person
  • Make your housing “unavailable.”
  • Deny a person a dwelling
  • Have different conditions, terms, or privileges for the rental or sale of a dwelling
  • Falsely state that housing is available for inspection, rental, or sale
  • Provide different housing facilities or housing services
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing
  • Or For-profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting)

(All information courtesy of HUD)

One Year to File a Complaint

Under HUD regulations if your current tenant of one who is applying to rent your dwelling feels as though they have been discriminated against in any of the ways above, they have 365 days to file a complaint against you. That’s right; they have an entire year to file a claim stating they feel as though their rights have been violated. Even if they no longer live in your property or never lived there at all.

HUD and the federal government, in general, take a very dim view of those who transgress these laws. The penalties for doing so vary, but you can count on them being severe based on HUD regulations and any local laws that are in place.

Think Very Carefully

If this makes you wonder about getting into the rental business, don’t let it. Just use this information to help ensure you stay within the realms of this law. You have no choice but to abide by them, but this doesn’t mean you have to cave in just because of the laws and rent to just anybody.

However, what it does mean is that you need to be very aware of the rights of your tenants and prospective tenants, as well as your own. Having this knowledge can help to avoid any potential misunderstandings before they have a chance to cause significant legal trouble for you. By following these rules and regulations, you set yourself up to become a respected and successful landlord.