Property Management Blog

Fair Housing Rules You Need to Know

Monday, May 23, 2016
Atlanta Property Management Blog

As a real estate investor, you are quickly becoming an expert on mortgage loans, remodeling, rent collection, and other aspects of owning real property. New investors find that they have to gain expertise in these areas very quickly in order to grow a profitable business. But one aspect that investors often overlook is the role that Fair Housing rules play in real estate transactions. Without knowledge of these rules, you can easily find yourself in enough trouble to wonder why you ever started investing in the first place.

Essentially, Fair Housing rules are quite simple. If you are selling or renting out a property, you are required to offer the property to anyone who has the financial means and the credit rating to qualify for the property.

There are seven characteristics you cannot use in determining if you will rent a property to a particular person: Marital status; gender; race; national origin; color; religion; and handicap.

While most of these are common sense to the average investor, there are a couple of these characteristics that frequently cause problems for landlords. Marital status can be an issue for landlords who rent studio or efficiency apartments that are only large enough for one occupant. If a married couple wants to rent one of these units, it might seem sensible to tell them that you can’t rent the unit to a married couple. However, this is not permissible under the Fair Housing rules.

Another characteristic that often causes issues is a prospective tenant’s handicap. Even if you don’t tell the person that you are declining their purchase or rental application because of the handicap, you can still run into problems if the applicant cannot access the rental unit. Landlords are expected to make reasonable accommodations to allow handicapped persons access to at least some of the rental units. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to remodel an entire apartment building to accommodate one applicant, but you do need to be able to show that you’ve made reasonable efforts to make some of the units accessible. If a prospective handicapped tenant qualifies and is willing to pay for the changes to the unit to accommodate his or her requirements, a landlord is required to accommodate the request. Of course the tenant is also required to pay for the unit to be returned to its original condition at the end of the lease term.

One issue that gets landlords’ in trouble is when they don’t treat all applicants equally; they want to provide a move-in special, but they don’t offer that special to all applicants or prospective tenants. They change the special rather than provide consistent information about the unit, the price, application guidelines, and the amount of the rent. The best way to prevent this is to have written application guidelines.

If you are concerned about following all the rules and guidelines, you can also employ a professional property manager to perform your screening for you & then manage the property to keep you at arm’s length. There are many other advantages to hiring a property manager as well – they have access to a wide variety of marketing tools, screening tools, provide a buffer between you and your tenant, have negotiated rates for contractors, and they keep up on all the latest housing issues including fair housing and landlord tenant law.

We are looking for quality investors who understand and appreciate the value of professional property management. If you want our free report – 21 Questions You Should Ask Your Property Manager – fill in your details.

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The Broker providing this data believes it to be correct, but advises interested parties to confirm the data before relying on it in a purchase/rental decision.