Small Landlord, Big Trouble

by Chris on January 18, 2016

Gold Hill, Colorado is a tiny mountain community of about 250 people. A local landlord there is in the news after turning away a same-sex couple, allegedly because renting to this family would draw too much negative attention. The landlord said she wanted to keep a low profile, according to the report.

tenant screeningThe tenants claim they were denied housing because the landlord believed a same-sex lifestyle would not be accepted in the community. The women say they chose Gold Hill, a short commute from Boulder, because of its liberal-leaning reputation.

The couple allegedly received emails from the landlord which indicated she feared that renting to them would spark small-town gossip and ill feelings.

An attorney for the tenants filed a lawsuit for violation of both state and federal housing discrimination laws. When asked about the pending litigation, the landlord told reporters that she turned away the couple because she believed their “hyper” children would be too noisy. Unfortunately, that reason also could violate those same anti-discrimination laws.

Landlords with one or a handful of properties still must follow housing discrimination laws; however, some believe they are exempt. Even if a landlord falls outside the scope of the federal Fair Housing Act, state and local laws still may apply to small landlord businesses.  In some instances, those state laws are more stringent than the FHA. Regardless of which anti-discrimination laws apply, the outcome is the same: significant income loss.

For instance, in this case, the tenants are seeking a court order requiring the landlord undergo fair housing training, and in addition, to pay a monetary judgment to compensate them for their difficulty in finding alternative housing.

Fair housing laws cover more than gender discrimination. Rejecting tenants based on religion, country of origin, or disability is illegal. In some states and cities, source of income is also protected, so rejecting a tenant who isn’t working but has income from government assistance could be a illegal.

Two of the most common reasons for discrimination claims in today’s rental market include:

Special rules for children, discouraging tenants with children such as advertising for “singles or professionals”, or steering families with children towards — or away from — particular units; and,

Refusing to approve a tenant’s request for a companion animal to assist with a disability.

When can landlord reject a tenant?

Rejection of a rental applicant must be based on objective factors that directly relate to tenant-worthiness. Those factors should be the same for everyone. Some examples include:

1. The tenant cannot show proof of income — regardless of the source — sufficient to cover the rent.

2. The tenant’s credit check indicates a disregard for paying bills on time.

3. There is a previous eviction history.

4. The tenant has a violent criminal history.

5. A bad rental history — breaking rules, disruptive behavior.

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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