How to Choose the Best Tenants and Avoid Fair Housing Complaints in Florida
The Florida Fair Housing Act and federal law prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on a number of factors, including race, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability (physical or mental) or familial status.
As a landlord, you are responsible for choosing tenants based on fair and lawful selection practices. You also want to choose tenants who are responsible and respectful of your property. You can accomplish both these objectives by ensuring that your due diligence process is thorough and — most importantly — legal.
Here are a few ways you can avoid fair housing complaints when choosing tenants:
Perform credit, reference and income checks. Institute a strict policy for checking every potential tenant’s credit history, references and employment history as part of your tenant application process.
Have a comprehensive screening process. Put your screening process in writing and supply a copy to each prospective tenant.
Base your decisions on business reasons. As a Florida landlord, you are free to choose your tenants as long as you base their selection only on business — not personal — reasons. If a tenant has a history of defaulting on rent payments or destroying property, they can be excluded based on these reasons. If you don’t like the way they look, you cannot disqualify them for that reason.
Have a trained staff. Your entire staff should be training thoroughly on fair housing practices and you should provide refresher courses at least annually to be sure that anyone in your organization who is responsible for screening tenants is up to date on the latest rules and regulations.
Use consistent and equal treatment. You should treat all tenants equally and apply rules consistently. If you give someone a break on paying his or her rent a few days late, then you must make that option available for every tenant. An exception: if you have a no-pet policy and a prospective tenant has a guide dog, you should allow this.
Use legal lease agreements. Be sure your lease agreements are up to date with current state and federal laws. Work with a Florida real estate attorney to craft a lease that works best for your property and complies with state law.
Know Florida tenant laws. Florida has laws that protect tenants and require landlords to provide certain notifications and take specific actions if they wish to terminate a lease. Knowing Florida tenant laws can save you from costly litigation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Romy Jurado is one of the founders of Jurado & Farshchian, P.L. a business, real estate and immigration law firm. She focuses her practice on business law, including corporate and transactional matters with an emphasis on corporate formation, stock and asset sales, contract drafting, and business immigration. Romy is originally from Peru and moved to the USA with the dream of becoming an attorney and entrepreneur. Romy is actively involved in the community through her work as a Score certified mentor, and speaking at conferences to entrepreneurs and small business owners. By Jurado & Farshchian, P.L. Firm's Profile & Articles
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.
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