Our society is more aware than ever before of everyone around us and their civil rights. In 1968, the Fair Housing Act was established to protect all citizens from being discriminated against for reasons such as race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, or familial status when trying to rent or buy housing. Fair housing rules are important to know when you are deciding whether or not to accept a tenant application. These rules have created more opportunities for more people, but have also required that everyone be more aware and careful in the way they speak and run their businesses. Don’t take the risk of rejecting someone only to find out that you’ve unknowingly discriminated against them. In order to steer clear of uncomfortable legal situations, educate yourself on landlord/tenant discrimination legislation in Fort Worth. Rental property management companies like Specialized Property Management are a great way to ensure that you aren’t making any costly mistakes and can handle marketing, tenant screening, and more to ensure that everything is done in the correct way. To get a head start, begin by reading the laws and special situations listed below and making sure that you are in compliance with those.
Marketing your rental home property will help attract good tenants, especially if you market in the right way. Be careful not to market to one specific group of people. When you say that your property is ideal for families, senior citizens and single people may feel like they can’t live there. It’s better for you and the community if you encourage all types of people in all stages of life to live in your rental property. This will help create diversity and the feeling that no one is getting left out. Diversity is encouraged and appreciated all over the city of Fort Worth. Property management services will help you market your rental property in a way that is inclusive, without attracting tenants that are irresponsible or unreliable. The following checklist from MetroTex can help you determine if you are in compliance with marketing regulations when posting an online ad.
- Does the ad contain any misleading statements, or does it tend to create a misleading impression in any manner? It is prudent for someone who did not design the ad to scrutinize it for any potentially misleading statements. Keep in mind that the standard is not whether a statement is true, but whether the advertisement “tends to create a misleading impression.”
- Does the ad contain the name of the real estate firm or broker? It should.
- Does the person causing the ad to be published have proper authority to publish or submit the advertisement?
- Is the price quoted the price agreed upon by the owner?
- Does the ad inadvertently imply a limitation or preference to a protected class that could potentially violate fair housing laws?
- Is the specific information relayed in the advertisement accurate?
Using a Fort Worth rental property management company is very important when selecting tenants. Once you’ve got a good amount of interest in your property, you have the opportunity to begin the screening process. You have the right to ask tenants about their rental history in order to see how they will treat your property and how seriously they will take their tenant responsibilities. Talk to former and current landlords about if the tenant paid rent on time, gave proper notice, or violated any lease terms. Use a written or online application that collects the information you need such as names, contact information, social security numbers, current and past addresses, employment information, and landlord references.
The entire screening process can be lengthy and time consuming. If you use Specialized Fort Worth Rental Property Management company, you will save so much time and worry by letting them handle the screening process and do so without risking discrimination. When you ask about tenant’s background, you have to be careful not to mention any questions that could be related to race or disabilities. Things you can ask about are financial history, sex offender charges, and criminal records. In order to gauge how reliable a tenant is, you are able to ask questions about past and current employment as well as check their credit score. You may also ask why they’re moving and how many people and pets will live in the residence.
Service Animal Compliance
Speaking of pets, service animals must be allowed, whether your rental property allows pets or not. Since they are required in some medical situations, service animals cannot be denied under any circumstances, including breed or size. In addition, someone who needs a service animal cannot be rejected because that would also be considered discrimination. Be careful to not make any slips that would make you appear non-compliant. Saying that your rental property does not allow pets, and that there are no exceptions, could put you at risk for being non-compliant when the exception is that service animals are allowed. Specialized Fort Worth’s property management services are aware of all the special needs that go along with disabilities and service animals. They will be able to inform you of what to say and what not to say when meeting someone with a service animal. For example, your potential tenant must provide proof that they need a service animal, but don’t have to explain why.
The state of Texas doesn’t have any current ruling for LGBT housing issues. The more people talk about these issues, the sooner there will be changes in laws in order to protect the housing rights of people who identify as LGBT. In the meantime, property owners should be aware of how they are advertising their property, be honest about available units, ask questions that aren’t discriminatory on lease applications, and avoid tenant screenings for things other than what is allowed by state regulations. If you were to suggest that you had no vacancies when you actually did, it could be grounds for a real estate agent to lose their license and the denied tenants would have grounds to file a complaint with the real estate licensing board. No matter what your personal beliefs are, it’s important to think of your rental property as a business, separate from religious or emotional views. Like anything else, there are some exceptions to Fair Housing laws, but you would have to have years of experience and knowledge to be able to identify which exemptions applied to you. That’s why employing the help of Fort Worth property management services can help you avoid costly fines from unwittingly going against current or future regulations that have the potential to change all the time.
Disability and Reasonable Accommodation
The definition of a disability is a mental or physical condition that substantially limits that person’s ability to participate in major life activities that are important to daily life. Disabilities are not always identifiable just by looking at someone. That’s why it’s important to be careful when first meeting potential tenants and putting them through the screening process. Be careful not to say or do anything that may be discriminating, regardless of whether they have an apparent disability or not. Conditions like heart disease, epilepsy, or even anxiety, may not be obvious when meeting someone, but may require special requirements or service animals. Fort Worth rental property management knows that reasonable accommodations for someone’s disability are required by law. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has laid out what it means to provide reasonable accommodations to these tenants. Some examples may include changes to parking policies, rent collection procedures, or the allowance of service animals. In order to not be discriminatory, it’s important to wait for a reasonable request to be made, rather than offering it and assuming that someone has a disability or the need for a special accommodation when they don’t.
Fair Housing Laws
No one wants to be discriminated against, and no one wants to discriminate. Most non-compliance happens because property owners aren’t aware of all the laws and regulations that exist at the federal, state, and local levels. Violating the Fair Housing Act comes at a cost, whether in the form of hefty fines or losing one’s real estate license in Fort Worth. Property management services can be the difference of hundreds of dollars for you, if you allow them to be the authorities on what laws are out there and how you can avoid breaking them. Specialized Property Management is required to stay up to date on past, current, and changing Fair Housing laws, protecting you from making mistakes that could result in hefty penalties and fines. Partnering with a professional property management company like Specialized Property Management will give you access to correct legal counsel, providing you with peace of mind knowing that you are always complying with the laws and not discriminating against anyone. As the leader of Texas property management companies, Specialized Property Management keeps you compliant with all federal and local laws and regulations. Contact us today!