Fair Housing Violations: 3 Things You Can’t Ask Your Tenants
Welcome to California, the Golden state. Along with the sun and fun your real estate investment property is located in the most litigious state in the union. Sorry about being a Debbie downer but the facts are the number of fair housing lawsuits continue to rise within the state. In 2015 the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing reported a record number 23,770 complaints against landlords for fair housing violations.
The good news for landlords is that most complaints are avoidable. Having professional property management would be the first step in protecting against fair housing claims but if you are managing your own property then it’s important to understand what you can and can not ask potential or existing tenants.
These are just 3 of the many questions you can’t ask your tenants.
1) Country of Origin
Asking a prospective or existing tenant about their country of origin is a violation of State & Federal law. Even in seemingly harmless conversation asking a person if they are Chinese or Japanese is considered a violation. The innocent question, where are you from is a no no.
2) Assistive Living Animals
It is unlawful to ask a prospective or existing tenant if they have an assistive living animal. Tenants with assistive living animals is on the rise. The majority of tenants who need assistive living animals require them for legitimate disabilities and are protected under state and federal law. It is unlawful to refuse tenancy to anyone because of an assistive living animal.
Unfortunately, the industry is noticing that many tenants are using this law to certify their pet via online certification to bypass landlords who do not want to rent to tenants with pets.
Regardless of legitimacy this is a grey area. A landlord may think they are inquiring about the pet or animal but the law may interpret they are inquiring about the tenants disability and that’s a violation of state and federal law. Best practice is to not ask and allow for the tenant to disclose based on the no pet tenancy terms.
Asking a prospective tenant about their children is a violation of state and federal law. Tenants with children are protected under familial status and the mere asking of the question is a violation. Even inquiring about someone’s pregnancy is a violation.
In full disclosure I’m not an attorney and don’t pretend to play one online. It’s important to understand and obey state and federal laws when dealing with rental property. If you have questions or concerns regarding these laws, seek legal advice and implement professional property management to further reduce liability.
To be safe, you should also avoid questions about marital status, sexual orientation, source of income, age or any other possible protected class in your State.
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Written by Salvatore Friscia, owner of San Diego Premier Property Management a full service residential property management company offering Worry Free property management to the greater San Diego area since 2004 and TenantFinder.com.