Re: Fair Housing - Posted by Jim Rayner
Posted by Jim Rayner on July 06, 2001 at 15:22:10:
From A Special Report #R6 from Mr. Landlord Inc. www.mrlandlord.com - More Than Fair Special Housing Report. I quote the following for your protection. If you do not have any of Mr Landlord?s Reports get them. Think it can?t happen to you guess again. I have a close friend a rental agent who currently is facing an investigation for asking pre-qualification questions on a phone inquiry:
Q. CAN YOU SELECT THE MOST QUALIFIED APPLICANT?
A. Dear Colleague, If several applicants approached you to rent a home and chose to go through your application process, whom would you select? That question seems easy enough. The overwhelming response is always, ?The most qualified.? If you too agree with that response, as 95% of most landlords would, STOP what you are doing! Let me give you a 1990?s wake up call, because you need to make a major mental adjustment to your current way of thinking. Selecting the most qualified applicant is NOT the right or ?fair? housing response. If you select on that basis alone, you open the door for a possible discrimination claim that is becoming the landlord nightmare of the 90?s. ?Trick or Treat? is becoming an expression of reality for rental owners. You either treat all applicants who approach your door with special care or you will receive a trick. Last year the average fair housing claim cost landlords about $35,000.
You are not entitled to select the most qualified applicant. The ?fair? response is that you must select the FIRST person who meets your qualifications and there is a difference. Let?s say one prospective tenant showed up at 10 o?clock Saturday morning to fill out an application for your rental. He met your minimal requirements, but you wanted to take applications from others that day to see if there might be somebody better before you make your decision. You are happy you waited, because at 3 o?clock that day a second applicant shows up who makes more money than the first applicant, and he dresses a lot better. The average landlord would go with the second applicant. But in this scenario, prospective tenant #1 could file a discrimination claim and win.
To avoid or reduce the chances of a discrimination accusation against you, there are several steps you can follow. You need to start by having a written list of minimal ?objective? criteria for selecting and determining whether an applicant is qualified.
I suggest your list includes criteria that can be proven or documented. For example: Monthly income is at least three times the monthly rent. Avoid subjective criteria that has no direct relationship to the applicant?s ability to pay and/or is hard to prove, like dresses pooly or there?s something not quite right about that person. - Besides both of these reasons don?t provide you with a legal or ?fair? reason for turning someone down. And please don?t use the old fashion typical qualification of ?Must be working or employed.? If that is one of your qualifications, let me give you another 1990?s wake up call. You can not turn somebody down simply because they are not working! You can turn someone down based on insufficient income, but you can?t be the judge on whether their source of income is proper (as long as it is legal).
By having a written list of criteria, you are now able to know when the first person meets your criteria, and therefore avoid turning someone down who would be able to file a discrimination claim against you because you went with someone later who you thought would be better. Please note. It is not necessary to stop taking applications until the first person who qualifies, pays all the money due for move-in and signs the lease. Until then, continue to take applications. However, judge all applications in the order received (number the applications) to see who next meets your qualifications, in case the first one accepted is unable to complete the final steps to moving in.
Most landlords don?t have a list of criteria outlined and make their decisions on general but not consistent guidelines. Others judge by vibrations given off by the prospective tenant and still some go by a gut feeling they have to select the best tenant. With this report you will not have to fall in any of these potentially very costly business practices.
You are running a business that is now being watched by numerous governmental agencies and you can not make your rental decisions without taking into consideration the ever changing ?rules? of play and suggestions outlined in this report. Don?t think tenants will continue to go along with whatever you ask, dictate or reject. If you don?t follow the right rules in selecting new residents, you are putting yourself at high risk of having a discrimination accusation charged to you by a tenant population that is growing more and more sophisticated and educated. Tenants, in an increasing number of areas, are now daily encouraged to exercise their right to sue by attorneys and legal aide services ready to help prove their case
It is a good business practice to put in your records the legal or fair criteria for which you based any decision to turn down an applicant who was not accepted. Keep this information in your records for a minimum of two years. Countless landlords are getting into trouble for turning people down for invalid or unfair reasons. Some questions on the average application can now even be misconstrued as a way of illegally discriminating. It is now recommended that these questions be deleted from your application, such as: Sex?, Age?, Marital Status? Church?