When it comes to renting your home, following fair housing laws can save you from spending thousands in unwanted litigation costs. As a landlord, you want to find the perfect tenant for your rental property. While this is a completely achievable goal, be sure that you know the laws that govern how you are allowed to select and deal with your tenants. These 4 tips on fair housing for landlords will get you started on the right path.
Discrimination - The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. Common forms of discrimination include denying a lease, setting higher rents for particular tenants, providing different services, and erroneously indicating that housing is unavailable. This also extends to advertising that suggests that the rental is exclusively available to a select group of people.
The easiest way to avoid making a discrimination mistake is to set your rental standards and apply them across the board for all applicants. In your advertisements, clearly state your rental requirements for income, rental history, credit history, and security deposit costs. Now, you must apply those standards to every applicant, every time. You must process applications in the order received, starting with the first complete application your receive.
Repairs - In the event that repairs are required or requested, the landlord is responsible for making sure that the rental is safe and free of health hazards, including adequate heating. Utilities must be maintained, but cosmetic repairs are not required. For example: if your tenant is complaining about repairs that clearly affect their safety (such as mold, broken windows, faulty door locks, ect), you should fix those issues. If, on the other hand, the tenant is complaining about the wall color or style of the light fixtures, you don't have a legal obligation to update the home.
Privacy - A rented property is the personal space of the tenants; the landlord does not have the right to invade their privacy. The landlord may only enter the premises in cases of emergency or when 24 hour notice is given. This includes repairs and showing the apartment to future tenants. Be sure to post a written 24 hour Notice to Enter Dwelling on the tenants door. Having the notice in writing protects you from accusations about enter the home in the future. Keep a copy for yourself in the tenant's file.
Terminating Rental Agreements - In the event that the tenant has violated the law or lease agreement, the agreement may be terminated with a written notice. You should post a 3-day notice warning the tenant to resolve the issue. If the tenant does not comply, eviction may be served. If the issue goes to court, the landlord may recoup court and attorney fees. However, the landlord is not permitted to change locks or deactivate utilities to force the tenant out.
If the tenant is on a month to month lease agreement, you can give the tenant a 30-day or 60-day notice to terminate the lease without cause. The amount of time you are required to give depends on the length of time the tenant has lived at the property. If you decide to take this route, be sure to contact your lawyer or property manager for advice.
For more information about Fair Housing Laws in Sacramento, CA, visit Sacramento County's Fair Housing Resource Page. As always, contact the experts at All Inclusive Realty Group for help with your investment property.