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Many landlords draft up agreements and leave it in the hands of their lawyers to have the right clauses in the right places. Unfortunately, those landlords usually fail at learning what they can and can’t do according to national, state or regional regulations.

The Fair Housing Act is an often quoted and highly misunderstood piece of legislature. Landlords, in particular, tend to overlook a lot of the provisions this act grants to tenants. To help property owners remain on the right side of the law, 11 professionals from Forbes Real Estate Council share the most common ways that landlords overstep the law and the things they can do to avoid those missteps in the future.

1. Be Transparent With Applicants

Landlords who are self-managing typically are unaware that they must treat all applicants the same. This means making the screening criteria available, presenting the criteria and applying them evenly across the board for all applicants each and every time. Landlords should take the time to write out their application process, have each applicant sign off on it and retain it in a file. – Nancy Wallace- LaabsKBN Homes, LLC

2. Be Fair And Don’t Discriminate

The Fair Housing Act is really about being fair. Every applicant needs to be treated the same, regardless of race, color, disability, religion, sex, familial status or national origin. Landlords should become very familiar with state and national regulations and have a documented transparent process to avoid even the appearance of bias. – Julien Leclair-DionneHomeFluent

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

Walk-up apartments can be a trap if the landlord speaks without thinking. For instance, if the prospective tenant mentions a disability, the landlord might say, “This is the second floor—not the apartment for you.” The mistake is that the landlord assumed a mobility challenge. The landlord  then compounds the mistake by not asking, “Do you need an elevator to the second floor? We don’t have one.” – Kristin GeentyThe Geenty Group, Realtors

4. Talk To A Lawyer

The Fair Housing Act is one thing I would not mess with. I would make sure to speak to the right legal advisor or lawyer to ensure I am complying and doing all I can. Though legal bills may be high and you try to avoid them, sometimes it is smarter to pay now as it could amount to a much larger sum by not taking the time to do so. – Heidi BurkhartDane Real Estate

5. Mind Your Humor

Federal fair housing mandates specific language be excluded from advertising. Many times, a party that is advertising will think that a joke will generate more eyes on the listing, but that specific language violates fair housing statutes. The best way to avoid this is to ensure licensed individuals that have specific training in fair housing regulations are involved in the leasing process. – Kyle KarkerAmerican Real PM

6. Don’t Inflate Your Fees

Landlords make the mistake of charging excessive late fees as a motivator to get tenants to pay rent. The fees have no correlation to the actual damages they suffer when tenants pay late.Tenants can check with the Late Fee Fairness Act of 2016 by state to determine the correct fees. – Kevin PalkaMVP Equities

7. Don’t Ban Service Animals

Assistant and service animals are not considered pets and are protected by the Fair Housing Act. Landlords must make “reasonable accommodation” and cannot refuse these animals despite a “no pet” policy. Landlords also cannot charge pet fees since they are not considered pets. – Catherine KuoElite Homes | Christie’s International Real Estate

8. Know The Things You Can’t Ask

Landlords want to know about their prospective tenants and they do so by asking questions. One of the most common mistakes landlords make is asking the wrong questions, i.e. familial status. It is important for landlords to understand what is within their rights to know and what is off-limits. Reviewing government publications and using an approved questionnaire will ensure they remain compliant. – Michelle RisiRoyal LePage Connect Realty

9. Follow Government Publications

It is important to convey usage of your property in a fair and equitable way. A casual innocent action could be considered otherwise. Review government publications on the matter. All—and I mean all—of the information you need is at your fingertips. Use Google to your advantage. If you have a special circumstance, call a lawyer versed in housing law to guide you through the situation. – Michael J. PolkPolk Properties / Matrix Properties

10. Know The Law

Landlord-Tenant Law protects tenants in situations like national emergencies and acts of God. That means that if a tenant cannot pay rent because of layoffs, they cannot be evicted during the crisis. They will still owe the full amount for the lease, but it will have to be prorated for the balance of the lease for any months that the tenant is unable to pay. The Law precludes a lease. – Timmi RyersonSmart Property Systems – Property Management

11. Understand Local Regulations

Several municipalities have additional protected classes beyond what is commonly known. If you are not intimately familiar with new areas you may be investing in, take time to research common practices there. Also, training all associates, especially maintenance, with direct resident interaction is key in avoiding potential issues. – Ari RastegarRastegar Property Company

 

Resource: forbes.com

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