Discrimination Survey Proves Many Landlords Need to Change Tenant Screening Practices

by Chris on May 2, 2011

“While discrimination may not be intentional, it has the same impact: people of color and immigrants face bias in the rental market,” says Housing Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau.

Data from a recent survey conducted there shows that even in a seemingly progressive part of the country differences in treatment exist across many areas of the rental screening process, including cost of renting units, move-in specials, moving costs, deposit and lease terms, among others.

In order to conduct the blind survey, FHCO sent out white, African-American and Latino testers to apply for rental apartments. Each tester was given a profile that detailed where they should seek housing, information about income, whether or not they were married or had children, and a reason why they were seeking new housing. The profiles were nearly identical except for their race and national origin.

Landlords showed a significant tendency to discriminate based on national origin, although race discrimination was also prevalent. African-American and Latino testers were quoted higher rental and moving costs, and more stringent lease terms.

Discrimination in the rental market can lead to significant fines and other monetary losses for landlords. Deborah Imse, executive director of the Metro Multi-Family Housing Association stresses the importance of educating landlords and property managers about the law. “Landlords have an obligation to offer the same opportunities and the same policies for the same housing unit. Consistent application and inquiry processes can help keep all landlords from violating fair housing laws, even unintentionally,” she says.

The Portland Housing Bureau suggests that landlords can avoid inadvertent discrimination by modifying tenant screening criteria that has a higher impact on protected classes, and providing culturally and linguistically appropriate information regarding tenants’ rights and resources.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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