3 Things You Can’t Ask Tenants | Fair Housing Violations
3 Things You Can’t Ask Tenants-Fifty years ago this April 11 ‑‑ just 7 days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ‑‑ President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 into law. The Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, religion, or national origin, is Title VIII of that law.
The Golden state of California, along with the sun and fun is the most litigious state in the union. The number of fair housing lawsuits unfortunately continues 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. With continued education and an increase in rental property owners utilizing residential property management companies that number was reduced to 17, 041 down 33%.
The good news for landlords is that most complaints are avoidable. Hiring a professional property manager is the first step in protecting against fair housing claims.
Fair Housing Violations
3 Things You Can’t Ask Tenants: Where Were You Born
Asking a prospective or existing tenant about their country of origin is a violation of State & Federal law. A seemingly harmless conversation that leads to asking a person if they’re Chinese or Japanese is considered a violation.
It may be an innocent enough question, especially if the prospective tenant or existing tenant has an accent but it’s actually against The Fair Housing Act to ask questions regarding someone’s nationality or upbringing either, or a spouse’s.
This is all information that should have no bearing on an application, or suitability as a tenant. If a landlord does ask, the penalties can be severe.
3 Things You Can’t Ask Tenants: Assistive Living Animals
It is unlawful to ask or refuse tenancy to 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.
Unfortunately, the industry is noticing many tenants are abusing this law via online pet certification to bypass landlords who don’t want to rent to tenants with pets.
Regardless of certificate legitimacy, this is a grey area for landlords because the law may interpret they’re inquiring about the tenants disability which is a violation of state and federal law. The best practice is not to inquire and allow for the tenant to disclose based on the no pet tenancy terms.
3 Things You Can’t Ask Tenants: Children
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.
Questions regarding ages, amounts, school, or if the applicant/tenant is planning on having children is a violation. A landlord should never initiate questions regarding children and tenants may even refuse to answer application questions regarding children.
In full disclosure I’m not an attorney and this is not legal advice.
Furthermore, 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.