Being a landlord is not an easy task in present times. On the one hand you are trying to keep away poor quality tenants from your rental property and on the other hand you have to abide by fair housing laws. These laws are meant to protect tenants from discrimination on the basis of religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, and marital status. There are also State and County laws to contend with, making the job of a landlord even more difficult. All landlords make sure they do not violate these laws so as to stay away from any trouble with the authorities. This is because these landlords are aware of the implications of being sued by a potential tenant in a court of law on the basis of discrimination.
However, many landlords, despite their best intentions of not offending their potential clients with their questions asked in their application forms, commit violations of fair housing laws. These landlords feel they are not crossing the limits with their questions but some tenants can take objections to seemingly innocuous questions.
As a landlord, your main objective is to get detailed information about the applicant. This information helps you in taking the right decision on allowing some tenants inside your property. Seeking information is alright but how you phrase your questions can make all the difference between being decent and being offensive and discriminatory to your applicants. Here are some common questions that landlords feel are innocent but which can offend some applicants and they may feel discriminated against.
What is your age?
This is a question that is very innocent to be asked form a landlord. After all, you want to make sure your potential tenant is legally adult to sign a lease agreement. You cannot find out the real age of a boy or girl until he replies to this question. But there are some people who can feel offended when asked about their age. To avoid trouble with such people, the best way to ask this question is to ask if they are legally adult or not.
Do you have kids?
Now, this is a question that most people ask others when they meet them for the first time. But if you are a landlord, it is better to say away from this question if you do not wish to get into trouble with some of your applicants. This is because marital status is a protected class under fair housing laws and some applicants can take offense to this question if they do not wish to declare their marital status. A better way of knowing about kids is to ask the applicant how many people will be living along with him in your property.
How big a house are you looking at?
Do you find any problem with this question? It is normal for a landlord to find out the size of the apartment an applicant is interested in. But some applicants can feel offended with this question as they feel you are commenting on the size of their family. Therefore, it is better to ask the price range the applicant has in his mind rather than asking the size of the apartment he is interested in.
Do you do a job?
Well, this is a very innocent question to ask an applicant to find out about his employment. But you cannot do so if you are a landlord. If you want to know if the applicant can afford the rent, it is better to ask about his monthly income rather than his job. You need not bother about the source of income as long as it is verifiable.
It is in your own interest to keep questions simple and generalized in your application form when you are a landlord.
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