If you're thinking about leasing your investment property, you're likely trying to learn about all the legal criteria involved. Property management companies in San Diego can help you navigate the numerous details of leasing your home to new tenants, as well as the fair housing laws.
Fair housing is defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as a condition in which individuals of the same income level in the same housing market have a variety of housing options regardless of color, ancestry, national origin, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, disabilities, source of income, race or marital status. According to an annual report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of San Diego, there were 10,155 complaints regarding housing discrimination in 2010. By working with a property management firm, you'll be able to work with experts on fair housing laws and practices.
As a potential property manager, you don’t want to embroil yourself in a legal quagmire. We’ve outlined the basics of Fair Housing to get you started.
Basic Practices for Fair Housing
As a property manager, it is critical to know your responsibilities under the law. There are several basic practices you must follow to be compliant, including:
- Assure the Property is Accessible to the Disabled: Retrofit rental property with the proper equipment (ramps, signs in braille, flashing sirens, etc.) to ensure every tenant has equal access and notifications. These are called “reasonable modifications.” A residential property management service should know what to do to assure that the property is accessible to all tenants.
- Consistent Criteria: Establish policies and procedures consistently to ensure equal treatment while avoiding unintentional violations. It is critical to be consistent with qualifications, rental rates, credit background checks, employment checks, rebates, specials, waiting lists and vacancies. As an independent rental property owner, it may be difficult to provide consistent criteria by yourself. But with the help of a property management company, their team of experienced property managers are able to apply consistent criteria throughout all potential tenants.
- Ensure Housing Choice: A housing provider should never make choices about which specific unit can meet a potential tenant’s needs. Instead, those with children or disabilities should be provided with all of the information about available units and properties to make their own decision. This is especially true for a multi-family property with different accessibility issues, such as multiple floors.
- Review Advertising Materials: Advertising materials should describe the investment property itself, amenities and units, but not the people or the type of tenant you're interested in. Advertising is broadly defined in the Fair Housing Act but includes newspapers, internet advertisements and promotional materials as well as verbal statements to potential tenants.
- Train Management on Established Policies: According to FindLaw.com, the property manager should be trained to show your commitment to fair housing practices. This is an excellent method to implement a risk management strategy and ensure those who interact with potential applicants are aware of their responsibilities. If you're an independent residential property manager, it can be difficult to find time to learn all of the intricacies of Fair Housing practices. A property management service is a good solution, considering it's their full-time job to know this information to serve their clients with the best possible customer service.
Avoiding Discriminatory Practices
Essentially, the only basis upon which you can weigh a tenant is assessing the capability of the tenant to pay rent regularly based on their financial strength.
To make sure you stay on the right side of the law, here are some discriminatory practices that violate the Fair Housing Act:
- Wrongful termination of rental agreement: There must be a clear reason of terminating a rental agreement. The homeowner should prove a case of financial incapability or any reasonable breach of the leasing contract. Creating a lease that covers the bases of your unique property is one of your responsibilities as a property owner. If you're unsure if your lease agreement covers everything, a residential property management company can help you draft a coherent and legally binding lease.
- Sexual harassment: As a property manager, don’t engage in any sexual activity with your tenants so that they can access your services. Basically, any kind of activity that would be deemed inappropriate in a professional environment would also be inappropriate in this situation. Treating your investment property as a business transaction is a great way to manage your property.
- Refusing to rent the house: Refusing to rent your property just because someone does not belong to a certain community or religion (or any other discriminatory basis) is against the law. San Diego county is a richly diverse area, and an accidental slip of the tongue could be misconstrued as discrimination. Great full-service property management companies are often trained on anti-discrimination laws and practices.
- Varying housing terms and benefits: If a tenant realizes that you’re granting other tenants preferential terms, conditions or other benefits on discriminatory grounds, he or she has the right to sue you. Understanding tenants rights is just as important as knowing fair housing laws
- Segregating housing accommodations: Ensure there are no special houses for some people and others are left out to rent the rest. Such discrimination would attract hefty fines if you’re sued.
Working with a Property Management Company for Compliance
Discriminatory housing practices are dealt with harshly by the housing authorities. In 2010, the enforcement of fair housing regulations resulted in more than $8 million in fines. Relieve yourself from the risk of violating the housing rules by hiring a trusted property management company.
Hiring a San Diego property management company can help you navigate through the specifics and generalities of the law. In addition to ensuring your property is compliant, a property management company can provide leasing licenses, extensive advertising, tenant screening processes and access to low-cost maintenance. Also, since property management companies are in the real estate industry, they’re connected to a network of contractors and service providers. Whether your the property owner of a single family home or multi-family property or a real estate investor, working with a property management company is a safe way to prevent any potential fair housing mishaps.
If you're interested about hiring a San Diego property management company, consider PropertyADVANATAGE for your full-service property management. For nearly three decades, PropertyADVANTAGE has helped serve San Diego county with excellent service within the rental market. For more information, visit our website here.