In the rush to fill a vacant rental unit, you might make a mistake that leads to legal consequences in the future. For example, you might inadvertently let your subconscious biases influence your selection of a tenant. You can avoid appearing discriminatory in your tenant selection practices by employing a screening process to apply to every applicant. 

Outline the Criteria for Choosing a Tenant

Even when you want to work with an agency that provides property management in San Diego, you should know in advance how you’ll evaluate potential candidates. This should involve determining whether you’ll rent to applicants with pets, violent criminal convictions, or poor credit.

In choosing the criteria for a future tenant, you cannot deny tenancy based on someone’s status within a protected group. Characteristics that you cannot consider under the Fair Housing Act include:

  • Race/ethnicity
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability status
  • Religion 
  • Familial status

It’s important to review local and federal fair housing laws regularly since these laws may expand to include other protected classes in the future.

Create a Standard Application for All Candidates

It’s easier to use one standard application form for every tenant, and it will help you avoid the use of discriminatory screening practices. The application should only require information related to confirming the applicant’s identity, rental history, employment history, and financial status.

Omit any questions that refer to an applicant’s inclusion in one of the previously mentioned protected classes. For example, you wouldn’t want to ask about an applicant’s country of origin. The application should inform the tenant about your screening process and list any application fees that you charge for processing background checks or other services.

Conduct Thorough Background Checks

While you wouldn’t want to discriminate against an applicant based on their protected class status, there are certain characteristics that you can and should screen. For example, a credit check will give you an assessment of an applicant’s payment history. This will help you predict whether the applicant will be responsible and timely in paying their rent.

A criminal background check will help you deny tenancy to applicants with a history of criminal activity. You might want to avoid renting to a tenant with several violent crime convictions. 

It’s important to know that California law limits your use of criminal history when it’s used for discriminatory practices. As the property owner or manager, you cannot use criminal history to purposely discriminate against specific ethnic or racial classes. This practice violates California Code of Regulations, Title 2, Sections 12264-71.

Interview Each Applicant in a Professional Setting

A firm that handles property management in San Diego will have an office or conference room designated for interviewing potential tenants. If you don’t use a third-party service, you should create a formal setting on the rental property. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. A table, a few chairs, and sufficient lighting are enough to create a professional setting.

It’s best to read from a list of prepared questions in each interview. Print out a copy of the questions for each tenant so you can make notes throughout the interview. Avoid deviating from the prepared questions to prevent falling into an unintentional discriminatory pattern.

Work With an Agency That Provides Property Management in San Diego

It’s not uncommon for a new rental property owner to feel uncertain about navigating federal and state fair housing laws. It can help to work with a real estate firm that handles the screening process on your behalf. Professionals will be familiar with the most current changes to fair housing laws.

Using a third-party firm to manage your property will give you a legal buffer. The firm will take on the responsibility of screening applicants and choosing your new tenants. You’ll avoid the pitfalls involved in screening potential tenants, and an experienced firm can fill vacancies more expeditiously.

Uniformity Keeps the Selection Process Fair

Creating a standard application and screening process will make it easier for you to fill vacancies. Using a process that applies to every potential tenant will help you demonstrate fairness and equity in your selection of new tenants. If any issues arise, you can point to your screening procedure as proof of your effort to avoid discriminatory practices.

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