Obtaining and owning single-family rental properties can be a fun and profitable investment. Unlike other types of investments, there are a lot of things to remember to successfully go from a property owner to a landlord. Suppose you are an Agua Dulce rental property owner and are gearing up to lease for the first time. Due to this, it is imperative to fully understand the basics of leasing strategies and, even more importantly, the laws that now apply to you and your renter. We’ve made a comprehensive guide to get you started on leasing your first property. If you implement these simple guidelines, your first experience can be a good one.
Renter Screening Process
One of the first and most critical methods in leasing your rental property is choosing a suitable renter. And the way to accomplish this is to have a good tenant screening process for each applicant. You’ll need to get information from your prospective renter, so you can decide whether they are the ones you’re looking for. At a minimum, you should ask them to fill out an application that includes all intended home occupants’ names and birth dates (such as those under 18), five years of employment history, and at least three past rental references. You should also get the Social Security numbers for all adult renters and conduct a background check on each one. At that moment, call and verify the information on their application. If you can, talk to any previous landlords and get details on their renting history. Even though it might take a while, the more research you do before you sign that lease, the less likely you are to be surprised by something bad in the future.
As you advertise to and screen renters, it’s crucial to avoid discriminating against potential renters, even unintentionally. Several federal laws make it illegal to discriminate against a renter based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, handicap, and familial status. These laws include:
- Fair Housing Act (FHA): The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The FHA applies to all aspects of the rental process, including advertising, tenant selection, and terms and conditions of tenancy.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Also covered by FHA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Landlords who own multi-unit buildings of 4 units or more are mandated to provide reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities. For example, they might make sure there are accessible parking spaces or put grab bars in bathrooms.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that forbids discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older. Although the ADEA is primarily intended to protect employees, it also prevents discrimination in housing based on age.
- Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is a federal law prohibiting discrimination in credit transactions, including rental transactions. Under the ECOA, landlords may not discriminate against individuals based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, age, or because they receive public assistance.
It’s important to research state and local law in addition to federal law. There may be other protected classes depending on local regulations.
When you compose your rental ads, avoid using language that could be seen as discrimination. For example, don’t say that you won’t rent to seniors or people with children or you won’t rent to those who live on government assistance. Then, as you accept applications and screen renters, fairly assess your applicants based on the information they provide and not on other criteria. By retaining professionalism and adopting an unbiased screening system, you can stay clear of discriminating against any potential renters.
Understanding Reasonable Accommodations
Moreover, it is vital not to assume that someone with a disability is automatically not an appropriate candidate for your rental property. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, Agua Dulce property managers are obliged to allow “reasonable accommodations” for their renters if they need them. By definition, a reasonable accommodation is “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” If your prospective renter otherwise meets the criteria for renting your property, accommodation should not be a reason to disapprove them. The accommodation a renter requests would be paid for and installed by the renter, with the agreement that they will return the property to its original condition upon move-out.
Other accommodations include allowing service and emotional support animals in the rental property, even if you have a strong policy against pets. Service and emotional support animals are not covered by a rental pet policy. You may not charge additional rent or fees should a renter keep a service animal on the property.
It can be hard to keep track of all the laws and best practices for leasing rental properties. Why not hire a professional property manager to take care of this important job? At Real Property Management Traditions, we offer clear and anti-discriminatory screening and leasing services to help our rental property owners locate the ideal renters. Contact us today or call us at 661-266-1400 to learn more.
Originally published on June 4, 2021
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.