Buying and owning single-family rental properties can be an exciting and advantageous investment. Unlike other types of investments, there are numerous aspects you need to consider to successfully go from a property owner to a landlord. Suppose you are a Findlay rental property owner and are preparing to lease for the first time. In that situation, it is critical to fully understand the basics of leasing strategies and, even more importantly, the laws that now apply to you and your renter. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to get you started on leasing your first property. By adhering to these simple guidelines, you can make your first experience a pleasant one.
Renter Screening Process
One of the first and most crucial tasks in leasing your rental property is finding the ideal renter. A good tenant screening process for each applicant is the best method to do that. You’ll need to obtain information from your prospective renter to assist you in deciding whether they are the ones you’re looking for. At a minimum, ask that they fill out an application that contains all intended home occupants’ names and birth dates (as well as those under 18), five years of employment history, and at least three past rental references. You’ll also need to gather Social Security numbers for all adult renters and perform a background check on each one. After that, call and verify the information on their application. If needed, contact any previous landlords and get details on their renting history. It may take a couple of days, but the more research you conduct before you sign that lease, the less likely you will experience unforeseen problems in the future.
As you advertise to and screen renters, it’s important to avoid discriminating against potential renters, even accidentally. Several federal laws make it unlawful to discriminate against a renter based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, handicap, and familial status. These laws include:
- Fair Housing Act (FHA): The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing according to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The FHA applies to all aspects of the rental process, including advertising, tenant selection, and terms and conditions of tenancy.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Also covered by FHA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Landlords who own multi-unit buildings of 4 units or more have to provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, such as giving accessible parking spaces or installing grab bars in bathrooms.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older. Although the ADEA is primarily designed to protect employees, it also prohibits discrimination in housing based on age.
- Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is a federal law prohibiting discrimination in credit transactions, including rental transactions. Under the ECOA, landlords may not discriminate against individuals based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, age, or because they receive public assistance.
It’s crucial to research state and local law in addition to federal law. There may be other protected classes depending on local regulations.
As you write your rental ads, avoid using language that could be viewed as discrimination, such as saying you won’t rent to seniors or people with children or that you won’t rent to those who live on government assistance. Secondly, when you gather applications and screen renters, fairly assess your applicants based on the information they provide and not on other criteria. By implementing professionalism and utilizing an unbiased screening system, you can stay clear of discriminating against any potential renters.
Understanding Reasonable Accommodations
Correspondingly, it is vital not to assume that someone with a disability is automatically not a good candidate for your rental property. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, Findlay property managers are commanded to allow “reasonable accommodations” for their renters if needed. By definition, a reasonable accommodation is “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” If your prospective renter otherwise meets the criteria for renting your property, accommodation should not be a reason to refuse them. The accommodation a renter requests would be paid for and installed by the renter, with the knowledge that they would be responsible for restoring the property to its original condition upon move-out.
Other accommodations include allowing service and emotional support animals in the rental property, even if you have a consistent policy prohibiting pets. Service and emotional support animals are excepted from a rental pet policy. You may not charge additional rent or fees if a renter keeps a service animal on the property.
It can be difficult to be familiar with all the laws and best practices for leasing rental properties. Why not engage with a professional property manager for this complex part? At Real Property Management Clarity Team, we provide straightforward and anti-discriminatory screening and leasing services to help our rental property owners locate the most qualified renters. Contact us today or call us at 567-200-2320 to learn more.
Originally published on June 4, 2021
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.