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by Gabrielle Rhind

apartment for rent photoOver the weekend, a potential rental applicant said to me: “I’m in a protected class – you cannot “not” rent to me.”

To a do-it-yourself landlord or someone who does not have tenant qualification systems in place, or for those that do not know how to properly deny tenants – this statement may scare you enough to rent to that individual because you don’t want to land in court for discrimination.

But, I was confident when I said, “You were denied because you do not meet the minimum rental qualifications.”

Can I do that? Of course! That’s because if I make any exceptions to the tenant qualification standards, I’ll be in violation of the Fair Housing Act for singling out certain groups of people for special treatment, also known as discrimination.

To avoid any lawsuits, treat everyone the same and fairly. Just because someone is in a protected class doesn’t mean they don’t have to meet the rental standards – they still need income, they still need to pass the background check, etc. But you have to have uniform standards of qualifications in place, and they must be in writing and stated to each individual who fills out a rental application in order to properly deny someone for those reasons.

If you are afraid or uncertain of how to handle these and other rental situations, it’s probably time to hire a property manager. Otherwise, know that it takes more than a working knowledge of the laws – it takes some common sense and a standard set of procedures that you must follow in order to keep yourself protected!

Gabrielle Rhind is with KGC Properties in Tuscon, Arizona, an owner operated and full service real estate company offering 24 years of expert property management experience.

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  • Kate

    As a do-it-yourself landlord, you may also want to say, “your application is denied,” rather than “you are denied”. Changing the way you say this will bolster your compliance and make the person feel more comfortable in an already uncomfortable situation.

  • todd

    I use a credit check service and advertise that a credit check and rental history reference check is manditory. I have an application that states this information that people sign. I also charge them for the credit check. Most tenents that are not worthy of renting do not fill out the application and it works like a truth serum. My standard line is “you are welcome to fill out the application and I can run the check.” Most people know what is on their credit report and will not fill out the application if they think they are going to lose the money.

    The credit check service generates a denial (or acceptance) letter that informs the applicant of their rights and why they were denied.

    You do not need to hire a property manager. You need to run your business in an honest way and make sure that you follow the rules.

    If someone told me that “you can’t not rent to me,” I would think that that is only the tip of the iceburg of the problems they are going to create for you and look into legal methods of denial of a lease offer.

  • Anthony

    Discrimination is not illegal…discrimination because someone is in a protected class is illegal. It’s okay to be discriminatory towards someone who doesn’t pay their bills for example but not because of their religion

  • joanne b

    bad tenants like to threaten. One person said to me, if you don’t rent to me I’ll be out on the street. I suggested he get in touch with Social Services in his county to get help.

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