Posted: August 29, 2022
As a landlord, it’s vital that you operate your properties within the framework of the law. While there are certain requirements that landlords must meet once tenants are living in their spaces, there are other laws that cover tenant screening. Landlords found to be in violation of these laws can face serious fines ranging between $16,000 and $65,000. While you want to make sure that you’re renting your investment properties to dependable, quality tenants, it’s crucial that you only ask tenant screening questions that are allowed under the Fair Housing Act. If you’re not sure what you can and can’t ask a potential tenant, discover those answers here.
Questions You Can’t Ask
Let’s start with looking at some questions that you’re not allowed to ask.
“How Old Are You?”
Age is considered one of the protected information categories, meaning you cannot as a prospective tenant his or her age. With the exception of rental units that are in retirement communities, you cannot discuss an applicant’s age.
“Do You Have Any Disabilities?”
In order for a unit to be legally allowed to be rented to the public, it must be able to be rented by disabled tenants. Even if you have a couple units that are handicap-accessible and try to steer a potential tenant to one of those units, you are in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
“Are You Married?” and “Do You Plan to Have Children?”
Familial status is also a protected piece of information, meaning you cannot ask this type of question to a potential renter. However, there is a bit of a loophole here, as you can ask how many people will be living in the unit. You just cannot ask if and how those people are related to the primary applicant.
Questions You Can Ask
Since we’ve covered some of the questions you can ask a potential tenant, let’s look at some areas that you are allowed to ask about.
“Will You Be a Safe and Responsible Tenant?”
When you’re talking to a potential tenant, it’s important to consider the other people who already live in your complex. While you want to be sure that the tenant can pay you, it’s also important that you verify that they will be a safe, responsible neighbor.
“Will You Be Able to Pay Rent on Time Every Time?”
Ultimately, you’re in the real estate investment business because you want to make money. You can’t do that if you rent out your space to people who can’t pay. Asking for employment verification and other pieces of financial information is completely legal.
“Will You Allow Me to Run References?”
You can require references from employers and past landlords. Additionally, if a tenant refuses to provide those pieces of information or says they don’t want you checking them out, you can refuse to rent to them.
Asking the right questions can save you a ton of money and stress but asking the wrong questions can lead to even more problems. Knowing what to ask is an important aspect of tenant screening.