Aug 31

The LA Times has an interesting discussion on an issue that concerned landlords get wrong.

Let’s say you have an applicant with a noticeable walking disability.  Being a caring person you try to steer  the prospective tenant to a first floor unit without steps as you feel that would be more convenient for them than the second floor walk up they are interested in. They insist they want the upper, you feeling they will not be comfortable with the upper insist they take the lower instead.

Pointing out you also have lowers available is good business and a service to the applicant, refusing or actively discouraging renting an upper is a fair housing violation.

This seems counter intuitive when all you were trying to do was what you felt was best for the applicant, but, maybe they like many others feel safer from crime on a higher floor and are willing to make the trade off of the inconvenience of steps for the added feeling of security.  As a landlord this is not your decision to make and what may be your personal preference in a similar situation may not be your tenant’s.

Same thing with the family with kids that wants to apply for an upper.  You offer them a lower because you fear the kids running around will create problems for lower tenants and may result in you having to evict them.; or you have a complex with kid buildings and no kid buildings; or prohibiting families with children from living in units nearer to the pools.  These too are fair housing violations.

In these cases it is up to the parent to insure their kids are safe and follow the rules. You have the ability to check their rental history and reject them if they or their family were disruptive at prior residences.  But it is the disruption and not the kids that must be your deciding factor. Really what does it matter to you if it is kids running around making noise or the old man coming home drunk and loud every night – disruptive behavior is disruptive behavior.



Aug 25

There has been a lot of concern among property owners and manager that the use of criminal background checks during screening will soon become problematic with the renewed emphasis on disparate impact claims.

Barron’s has an article that discusses a case involving the use of background checks in employment.

A federal judge cast doubt on government efforts to restrict employers’ use of criminal-background checks in hiring as he dismissed a lawsuit by regulators against a Dallas event-marketing company.

This is such a difficult area.  You don’t want to rent to those who will harm others in the building, the neighbors or cause damage, but you also do not want to run afoul of Fair Housing in the process or deny housing to those who would be good tenants.

We have seen public access to court records, such as Wisconsin’s CCAP, come under seemingly constant attack.  Perhaps this case will in part answer that question.

Aug 25

HUD Press Release 


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that a national property management company will pay $15,000 under an agreement resolving allegations it discriminated against a Connecticut family with children.  A Middletown, Connecticut husband and wife alleged that employees at Hamilton Point Property Management, LLC refused to renew their lease after concluding the family of five was too large for the two-bedroom apartment they occupied for nearly a decade.

This is an important decision.  What was a well understood rule has been overturned.  The real question is what happens when this and housing codes collide.

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