Failure to run a criminal check can increase landlord liability, especially if the new tenant hurts others, and increases the chances that an applicant will become a problem tenant.
On the other hand, having a strict crime policy can attract good tenants who place safety at the top of their apartment-hunting wishlist.
To get the most out of your criminal background checks, it’s important to keep these tips in mind:
1. Criminal reports, unlike credit reports, usually are not indexed using specific identifying information like the applicant’s Social Security number. That means you will need to rely on other information to link possible criminal reports to your applicant. Your rental application should include the date of birth, the party’s full legal name and any alias names, as well as previous addresses. Read the rest of this entry »
Otherwise, landlords and tenants are left to sort out the day-to-day management issues without any written standards. That can lead to conflicts, and claims of harassment or discrimination.
While the rules sheet is usually incorporated into the lease agreement, landlords who use a separate set of tenant rules often will reserve the right to change those rules from time to time. This is usually done by making a revised list, and then demanding tenants sign the new one.
But can a landlord change the rules mid-lease? Not surprisingly, the answer depends on the rule that is being changed.
The lease agreement is a contract, a bargained-for exchange where each side gets some things, but gives up some things in return. So, in order to determine whether a rule can be changed mid-lease, you need to decide whether the new rule changes the terms and conditions of the bargained-for rental agreement.
That means anything that materially changes the way the tenant lives day-to-day, or costs the tenant more money, may not be subject to change via the house rules.
The rules are a place for logistics, like acceptable conduct in common areas, a prohibition against leaving laundry unattended, or where to place the trash. The term ‘rules’ is a misnomer; they’re more like guidelines than actual rules. Read the rest of this entry »
A housing authority in Indiana, along with the city of Hammond, have agreed to pay $200,000 to settle allegations that an employee was wrongfully discharged for her success in integrating minorities into predominantly white neighborhoods.
After being fired from her job administering a housing voucher program, the woman filed a claim with HUD alleging she was wrongfully terminated because she assisted persons using vouchers to find housing in the Hammond neighborhood of their choice. She further alleged that the mayor of Hammond made public statements supporting her ouster, claiming that the voucher program had grown “out of control” and “exploded” during her tenure.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to retaliate against a person for supporting the housing rights of others. In addition, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Read the rest of this entry »
New eBook Makes Discrimination Training Even More Convenient and Affordable
Fair Housing Helper is pleased to announce the launch of the eBook version of Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals, its popular compliance product aimed at helping landlords, property managers, leasing agents, and staff comply with the Fair Housing Act and related housing discrimination laws.
At $9.99, the new Kindle eBook edition is 50% less than the paperback, and thousands of dollars less than a Fair Housing lawsuit. The price is even lower when purchased with the paperback version.
Kirkus Reviews has called Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals a “useful, easy-to-read guide for those who want to learn more about complying with U.S. fair housing law,” noting that the “book offers plenty of good advice in plain English” and the “quiz format makes learning the law fun and easy to digest.” Read the rest of this entry »
Governor Cuomo’s office touted the major settlement agreement between the state’s Tenant Protection Unit and the landlord and management company saying that it will help make communities “more just and affordable.”
The unprecedented agreement includes monitoring of the landlord’s practices for up to three years, the establishment of a fund to compensate mistreated tenants, the return of tenants previously ousted, and a requirement that all future communication between landlord and tenants be conducted in both English and Spanish. Read the rest of this entry »
The case was filed against an Euless, Texas landlord accused of discriminating against persons of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent.
Under the agreement, the landlord will pay $107,000 in civil penalties and $210,000 in a damages fund to compensate victims.
According to the complaint, violations had continued for several years, and involved the owners, employees and management company for the apartment complex. Read the rest of this entry »
The complaint alleges that the former manager yelled at children who were playing in common areas and told tenants that the landlord intended to evict families with many children.
Eights tenants filed the lawsuit seeking monetary damages, including punitive damages, and an injunction. The filing follows a complaint brought last month by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing against the landlord. With the help of the advocacy group Tenants Together, the tenants initially filed an administrative complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against the management of the complex for discriminating against families with children. Read the rest of this entry »
According to a report, the Commission is questioning landlords on the topic of discrimination. Those who fail the test may face fines up to $2,600, according to the report.
The tests are being conducted over the phone, and the Siouxland Rental Association warns that the wrong answers could get some landlords in hot water.
If you are not sure you could pass such a test, then now’s a good time to review the rules. Read the rest of this entry »
The tenant family uses a privately-owned ambulance to transport their son with a disability. When not in use, the vehicle is parked outside the residence. The victims claim they provided the homeowners association with a letter documenting the family’s need for the ambulance, but the association and its property management company refused the family’s requests, citing association rules that do not allow residents to park commercial vehicles on their properties. The family then filed a complaint with HUD. Read the rest of this entry »
But some tenant screening policies can cause serious problems over time.
Here are five things you should be watching for:
1. Some landlords have a policy of only running tenant checks on the applicants that they don’t feel completely confident about. Other candidates, who seem like a sure bet, are off the hook.
If you follow that policy, not only do you you risk being duped by a fast-talking problem tenant, but you could be accused of discrimination, if you are inadvertently applying a profile when deciding which tenants you trust — and which you don’t.
2. When there are going to be multiple occupants, including couples, don’t just run tenant checks on the “lead” tenant. Bad tenants who can’t get a lease in their own name may have no choice but to move in with someone else. All too often, problem tenants sneak into an apartment and lay low for a while. But think about what would happen if this bad tenant harms someone, or ends up in the unit alone? That’s why it’s crucial to screen each adult occupant. Read the rest of this entry »
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