Landlords: Avoid Claims by Familiarizing Yourself with Fair Housing Laws

Some real estate investors buy properties for the residual income they can earn by renting them. Not a bad idea over time, as long as you make choices that will help you avoid pitfalls. Familiarizing yourself with fair housing regulations offers a safety net.
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Some real estate investors buy properties for the residual income they can earn by renting them. Not a bad idea over time, as long as you make choices that will help you avoid pitfalls. Familiarizing yourself with fair housing regulations offers a safety net.

One of the most dangerous pitfalls is ignorance. Before you decide to rent an investment property, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the law. In fact, you should know it inside and out before you buy a property with the intent to rent.

There’s a Fair Housing Law?

Yes, there is, and knowing about fair housing will help you understand what should and should not be done when renting property. Your best protection against a claim that the fair housing law has been violated will be understanding every aspect of the fair housing law. The following guidelines are just a few of the things you need to know.

Advertising Your Property

One of the most common ways landlords find people to place in their rental properties is to advertise them. Until the Internet came along, local newspapers were the most common approach. The classified sections are still viable for getting the word out about your rental home. Weekly periodicals also serve.

These days most people are familiar with Craig’s List or similar sites to list and search for anything. Rental properties, roommates and rooms for rent are popular search items.

When advertising, be careful to stick to the topic at hand. As a landlord describe property amenities, not what you are—or are not—looking for in a resident. Don’t make the mistake of saying things like, “great for a young couple” as it may be considered discriminatory to families with children. Words such as “safe” or “exclusive” may imply you are only interested in renting to certain groups.

At the end of your advertisement include either the fair housing logo or a disclaimer such as “This community does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status.”

One of the most dangerous pitfalls is ignorance. Before you decide to rent an investment property, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the law.

Avoid Steering

The issue of steering is especially important when touring multi-family dwellings. Steering refers to attempts by the landlord to direct a resident to a specific area of the property. The reason doesn’t matter. Avoid a prospective resident’s claims of steering by showing the property in its entirety to every single prospect. Let the prospect decide what to see and what to skip.

For instance, as innocuous as it may seem, a landlord should never say “this is a great spot because it’s quiet with very few children running around.” Even saying “there are lots of other children the same age as yours” may be considered a violation of the fair housing law.

Don’t assume that certain people are looking for specific things. Failing to show a senior person or handicapped person the recreational areas because you assume they wouldn’t be interested, could create potential liability. However, if a prospective resident says they aren’t interested in touring a particular part of the property, it is okay to skip it.

Under no circumstances, even if you’re asked, should you ever comment on the “types” of people who live in the community. When presenting information, only offer facts about the property and the neighborhood or community. Do not talk about other residents or neighbors.

Renting investment properties is a great way to generate regular cash flow. As long as you stay within the fair housing laws (and there are many more than what’s listed in this article) you are on your way to a lucrative stream of residual income.

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