I recently came across the topic of a questionable Fair Housing violation regarding a rental that already had a tenant. The issue arose from the present tenant marrying an individual who has been recently released from incarceration due to a felony charge. While congratulations to the newlyweds is certainly in order, this does raise some concerns for a property that has a policy established as to what is required on a background check to approve the application. Here’s what you need to know about Fair Housing compliance in delicate situations:
- Your Policy is Key: An established rental policy that complies with Fair Housing requirements must be adhered to. Should you sway from it and a lawsuit is filed, you have a precedent that can be used against you. Exceptions apply only if the matter pertains to a flexible portion of your policy that is not explicitly specified.
- Be Objective: Methods such as tenant screening and proof of employment are used to make the application process naturally fit with Fair Housing requirements. The moment you begin to use subjective reasoning as your basis for a decision, you create an unfair standard for all applicants.
- Know Your Rights: No one likes to be denied – period. Applicant’s may be upset for your decision and threaten to take action on a legal level. If you are going to deny someone make certain your policy has a clear explanation as to why they were denied so no Fair Housing violations can be used. You can reference Fair Housing guidances here - http://1.usa.gov/NLQCbr.
In the situation about the newlyweds it is tough, but you have to keep to your policy. The cost of possibly having to lose a resident is not as high as the repercussions of alienating other residents and defending your decision in court.
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