Buying and owning single-family rental properties can be an intriguing and compensating investment. Unlike other types of investments, there are many things you want to be aware of to successfully go from a property owner to a landlord. Suppose you are a Cave Springs rental property owner getting ready to lease for the first time. In that scenario, it is significant to fully understand the basics of leasing strategies and, even more importantly, the laws that now apply to you and your renter. We’ve constructed a comprehensive guide to get you started on leasing your first property. Obeying these straightforward guidelines can make your first experience a good one.
Renter Screening Process
One of the first and most significant steps in leasing your rental property is selecting the right renter. And the method for doing that is to have a good tenant screening process for each applicant. You’ll have to accumulate information from your prospective renter to assist you with deciding whether they are the ones you’re seeking. At a minimum, demand that they fill out an application that includes all intended home occupants’ names and birth dates (counting those under 18), five years of employment history, and at least three past rental references. You’ll also want to gather Social Security numbers for all adult renters and run a background check on everyone. Then, call and verify the information on their application. Ideally, contact any previous landlords and get details on their renting history. It might require some time, but the more research you do before you sign that lease, the less likely you will experience unpleasant surprises in the future.
As you advertise to and screen renters, it’s recommended to avoid discriminating against potential renters, even if it’s unintended. Various federal laws make it punishable 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 based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The FHA regulates all elements 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 must offer reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, such as offering accessible parking spaces or putting grab bars in bathrooms.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that restricts discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older. Although the ADEA is generally created to protect employees, it also restricts 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.
In addition to federal law, it’s important 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 might qualify as discrimination, such as stating 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 collect 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 stay clear of discriminating against any potential renters.
Understanding Reasonable Accommodations
In the same manner, it is necessary not to assume that someone with a disability is automatically an unsuitable candidate for your rental property. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, Cave Springs property managers are mandated to allow “reasonable accommodations” for their renters, should they be requested. 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 reject them. The accommodation a renter requests would be paid for and installed by the renter, with the comprehension that they will return the property to its original condition upon move-out.
Other accommodations incorporate permitting service and emotional support animals in the rental property, regardless of whether you have a strict policy forbidding pets. Service and emotional support animals are not included in a rental pet policy. You may not charge additional rent or fees should a renter keep a service animal on the property.
Knowing all the laws and best practices for leasing rental properties can be complicated. Why not entrust this significant undertaking to a professional property manager? At Real Property Management First Choice, we deliver transparent and anti-discriminatory screening and leasing services to help our rental property owners find the ideal renters. Contact us today or call us at 479-242-0791 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.