Landlords Beware: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

by Chris on October 12, 2015

There have been recent reports of families having trouble finding rental properties because landlords are discouraging rental applicants with children.

In fact, the Ontario Human Rights Commission three years ago found that roughly one in five rental ads contain language that may illegally discriminate.

 tenant screeningWhile this highlights a problem that plagues tenants all across the country, what many landlords may not realize is that discrimination is one of the most costly property management mistakes.

Any time a landlord tries to describe the type of tenant they seek, they run the risk of a discrimination claim. At the very least, this will cost both in legal expenses and time.

In a worst case, it will end with the landlord owing thousands of dollars to the tenant or rental applicant.

Not only is discrimination in tenant screening illegal, but it also does not make good business sense.

That’s because landlords who discriminate are choosing tenants based upon a perception or stereotype, and not on the individual’s qualifications. And, these stereotypes are unreliable.

Let’s take this example:

Many landlords advertise for “singles” or “young professionals”, or make reference to popular locations in the hope of attracting this demographic. The perception is that these tenants are ideal renters. Yet, you could easily turn the tables on that stereotype.

It may be true that young professionals are likely to have verifiable income, and probably more disposable income than parents. However, we could easily conclude that these renters are going to be working long hours and therefore not able to take care of the rental property — or their pets.

These professionals may stay out late and come home at all hours of the night, disturbing their neighbours. They may throw numerous parties.

Often single professionals team up with roommates to save money. Roommates are notorious for moving mid-lease, placing the entire tenancy in jeopardy.

We could even conclude that these professionals won’t care about losing security deposits so they won’t bother cleaning a property when they leave.

This demographic is more transient. Professionals won’t think twice about accepting a job transfer and may have no other reason to stay in the community.

Now, imagine a rental with a family. Not only do these renters want to provide a good home for their children, but they value a property location, especially when it is near schools or family activities. They become a part of the community.

This gives families an incentive to stay, and a landlord may find that these tenants make great long-term prospects. One can make the case that families represent quieter, more stable tenants.

It’s not just families that are protected by anti-discrimination laws. Those with disabilities must be provided accommodation. Race and religion, country of origin and age are other factors that cannot be considered when choosing tenants.

Also, it’s not only the tenant screening process that can give rise to discrimination claims. Property management policies that unfairly burden some tenants, like curfews only on children or denying a tenant’s emotional support animal, are illegal — and costly for landlords.

Before you fill your next vacancy, scrutinize your rental ad for signs of this all to common mistake. Are you trying to describe the tenant you want, or are you trying to describe the property so qualified tenants can decide if they’d like to live there?

When it comes down to it, the ideal tenant is one who is qualified, and there is no way to identify that tenant from appearance. The only applicants you want to discourage are those who can’t or won’t pay the rent, have a bad rental history, or are out to scam the next landlord.

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).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

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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