As a landlord, you want to make sure you understand all of the Fair Housing laws in the state of Florida. If you don’t understand the requirements, you can open yourself up to a lawsuit. It will be costly, and it will take a lot of time to defend yourself against it. If you don’t have the time or the interest to learn and keep up to date with all of the state, federal, and local housing laws, make sure you’re working with a professional property management company that can protect you.
Get to Know the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act was originally passed in 1968, and protected people against housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin. It has been amended several times to include additional protected classes. In its current form, the law prohibits discrimination in homes for sale and for rent based on the following:
When you’re making a decision to rent a property to a tenant, you cannot approve or deny that tenant based on any of those seven things.
Fair Housing and Rental Property Screening
It’s rare that a landlord will intentionally discriminate against an applicant, but you have to protect yourself against the perception of discrimination. The best way to do that when you’re screening and selecting applicants is with a written set of rental criteria. When you have something in writing that establishes what you’re looking for in a tenant, you cannot be accused of making decisions based on any of those protected criteria. You can state what you expect in terms of income, credit score, background information, and rental history. Provide this criteria to any potential tenants before they apply so they’ll know whether they have a good chance of qualifying for your property. When you are consistent with the way you screen and you have a written document that demonstrates how you choose tenants, it will be hard to accuse you of discrimination.
Fair Housing and Marketing Rental Properties
Marketing is another area where you can violate fair housing laws without even realizing it. For example, depending on the type of home you have and the tenants you think you’re targeting, you might want to advertise your property as “great for families” or “not appropriate for children.” However, those terms and phrases will violate the familial status part of the fair housing laws. The point is, you cannot target tenants at all. You don’t want to say that a home is “close to churches” or “perfect for a single professional” or “in a Russian neighborhood.” Choose your words carefully when you’re advertising, otherwise it could appear that you’re trying to attract or deflect certain groups of tenants. This is legally prohibited.
Fair housing can be a challenge if you don’t know the laws and you don’t keep up with the changes. We deal with this every day, so feel free to contact us at A+ Realty Management if you have any questions or concerns about fair housing laws and how to follow them.