Dos and Don’ts for Tenant Screening

Implementing an objective screening process. This process should be written and should clearly detail your occupancy guidelines. Remember the criteria for occupancy needs to be uniform, and should be available to all prospective renters. 

Let all rental applicants should be well informed about the process upfront with clear cut rental guidelines, so they know what to expect. Application questions should not include anything related to a protected class—which are race, disability, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or familial status. 

Questions about bankruptcies, judgments, and prior evictions can be included as long as you ask everyone.

Criminal Histories

If you recall our last #FairHousingFriday post, we discussed that not all discrimination is blatant or intended. That being said even neutral tenant screening policies can have a disparate impact on protected classes. An example of this would be the use of criminal histories in the review process.  

In 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued the following guideline related to this topic. They stated because statistics show more convictions for persons of color, this could create a disparate impact on approval for housing. The take away from HUD’s statement is arrest records are not a valid reason to deny a person housing. 

With that in mind, using statements like “any criminal conviction will be denied” is viewed as a violation of the Fair Housing Act. HUD did give guidance stating convicted criminals may be denied housing if they pose a threat to the safety of other residents and their property. If you are going to deny a potential resident based on a previous conviction, a holistic approach will need to be taken to identify the reasons for the denial. 

Should you ever deny anyone based on their criminal record, you are going to want to keep a thorough record of your findings, as well as the reasons for the conclusions drawn from that information.