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The High Cost of Fair Housing Failures: How Ignorance Can Break the Bank

Mistake #5 - Fair Housing Failures

Discriminating can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Unintentionally or unknowingly discriminating can too.

Fair Housing Failures is the final mistake in our series of five mistakes that cost rental property owners money.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

It is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, familial status, or disability. If you think that this is your house and you can do what you want to, you're wrong. Your preferences go out the window when you decide to rent your home to the public.

Let me give you a few examples of how people discriminate and don't even know it.

Wording of Your Ads

You can't place an ad that says, "Great for families" or "Awesome location for single professionals." This may seem harmless, but there are people who use code words to steer certain groups of people away from their property. Being in a college town, I have a lot of property owners who will say they have no problem renting to college students, but they don't want to rent to guys. That's discrimination. It doesn't matter that they're college students; it's still discriminating based on their sex. And by the way, girls can be just as filthy and do just as much damage.

Unconscious Biases

Do you make judgments based on social stereotypes about certain groups of people without even being aware of it? Are you unconsciously treating someone differently because they look different than you? Maybe they dress differently than you. Are you putting off a vibe that they're not welcome at your home?

Emotional Support Animals or Service Animals

ESAs have been in the news a lot over the last few years. Tons of property owners, as we discussed in our previous video, do not want pets in their property, and they think that a service animal or an ESA is the same as a pet. It's not. It's an animal. It's a tool used for that person's disability. You can't decide that you don't want an animal in your home, so you won't rent to someone with a service animal or an ESA. Handle the special accommodation request properly, or you could find yourself in a lawsuit.

Objective Rental Criteria

Remember, in an earlier video, I stressed having an objective rental criteria and sticking to it? We do this to make sure that we don't break our rules and put someone in the property that we shouldn't. But also, we do it to ensure we're not discriminating. We have set criteria and post it on our website, so applicants know exactly what we're judging them based on and know prior to us even getting the application whether they'll pass or not.

Are you one of those people that go off your gut feeling? There's a good chance your gut feeling is based on unconscious biases or stereotypes.

Local and State Laws

Other than fair housing laws, local and state laws also determine things like how repairs should be handled, what you can and cannot take from your resident's security deposit, the resident's privacy, and when you can and can and cannot enter the home. You must keep up with local, state, and federal laws, or you can get in trouble fast.

Do Better

Maybe we should just flip our entire perspective about potential residents and our residents. Rather than just trying not to get in trouble, maybe we shouldn't discriminate because we want to treat everyone fairly. We want to give everybody a fair shot at a good home.

Oftentimes in this industry, our residents and potential residents are really just seen as a dollar sign – someone to fill a home to get a rent check. They are people who deserve a good place to live. Maybe we should follow the local and state laws regarding how our residents are handled in the home because we want to treat our residents well.

Treat your residents well, give them a good place to live, and they'll be good back to you.

Don't let these fair housing failures cost you thousands!