Acquiring and owning single-family rental properties can be a fun and rewarding investment. Unlike other types of investments, there are numerous factors to keep in mind to successfully go from a property owner to a landlord. Suppose you are a Burbank rental property owner getting ready to lease for the first time. In that instance, it is useful to fully understand the basics of leasing strategies and, even more importantly, the laws that now apply to you and your renter. We’ve created a comprehensive guide to get you started on leasing your first property. Considering these simple guidelines can make your first experience a wonderful one.
Renter Screening Process
One of the first and most important tasks in leasing your rental property is choosing the correct renter. And the way for this to happen is to have a good tenant screening process for each applicant. You must get information from your prospective renter, so you can decide whether they are the ones you’re looking for. At a minimum, you need to ask them to fill out an application that incorporates all intended home occupants’ names and birth dates (including those under 18), five years of employment history, and at least three past rental references. You must also obtain Social Security numbers for all adult renters and run a background check on each one. After that, call and verify the information on their application. If necessary, talk to any previous landlords and get details on their renting history. It may take a while, but the more research you do before you sign that lease, the less likely you will encounter unpleasant surprises in the future.
As you advertise to and screen renters, it’s critical to refrain from discriminating against potential renters, even if you don’t mean to. Under numerous federal laws, it is illegal 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 because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The FHA supports 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 are necessitated to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, such as providing 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 mainly designed to protect employees, it also forbids 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.
Besides federal law, it’s crucial to research state and local law. There may be other protected classes depending on local regulations.
As you write your rental ads, avoid using language that could be seen as discrimination. For instance, don’t say that you will not rent to seniors or people with children or that you won’t rent to those who live on government assistance. Then, as you gather applications and screen renters, fairly assess your applicants based on the information they provide and not on other criteria. By maintaining professionalism and using an unbiased screening system, you can prevent discriminating against any potential renters.
Understanding Reasonable Accommodations
Moreover, it is important not to assume that someone with a disability is automatically not a good candidate for your rental property. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, Burbank property managers are bound to make “reasonable accommodations” for their renters if they necessitate them. 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 decline them. The accommodation a renter requests would be paid for and installed by the renter, with the agreement that they will return 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 strict policy against pets. Service and emotional support animals are excluded from a rental pet policy. You may not charge additional rent or fees should a renter keep a service animal on the property.
It can be difficult to remain aware of all the laws and best practices for leasing rental properties. Why not hire a professional property manager to keep control of this important job? At Real Property Management Vision, we offer straightforward and anti-discriminatory screening and leasing services to help our rental property owners find the best possible renters. Contact us today or call us at 818-233-8789 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.