Purchasing and owning single-family rental properties can be an interesting and fulfilling investment. Unlike other types of investments, there are several factors you need to understand to successfully go from a property owner to a landlord. Suppose you are a Brooklyn rental property owner getting prepared to lease for the first time. In that situation, it is necessary to fully understand the basics of leasing strategies and, even more importantly, the laws that now apply to you and your renter. We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to get you started on leasing your first property. Implementing these basic guidelines can make your first experience a great one.
Renter Screening Process
Choosing the perfect renter is one of the first and most crucial tasks in leasing your rental property. And the best way to accomplish this is to have a good tenant screening process for each applicant. You’ll have to collect information from your prospective renter to assist you in determining whether they are the ones you’re searching for. At a minimum, ask that they fill out an application that contains all intended home occupants’ names and birth dates (even those under 18), five years of employment history, and at least three past rental references. You’ll also need to gather Social Security numbers for all adult renters and conduct a background check on each one. After that, call and verify the information on their application. Call any previous landlords and get details on their renting history if feasible. It may necessitate some time, but the more research you need before you sign that lease, the less likely you will experience unpleasant surprises in the future.
As you advertise to and screen renters, it’s essential to refrain from discriminating against potential renters, even accidentally. Numerous federal laws make it unlawful to discriminate against a renter based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, handicap, and familial status. These laws include:
- Fair Housing Act (FHA): The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The FHA covers all phases of the rental process, including advertising, tenant selection, and terms and conditions of tenancy.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Also covered by FHA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Landlords who own multi-unit buildings of 4 units or more are essential to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, like offering accessible parking spaces or putting grab bars in bathrooms.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that outlaws discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older. Although the ADEA is mainly intended to protect employees, it also forbids discrimination in housing based on age.
- Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is a federal law prohibiting discrimination in credit transactions, including rental transactions. Under the ECOA, landlords may not discriminate against individuals based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, age, or because they receive public assistance.
Aside from federal law, it’s imperative to research state and local law. There may be other protected classes depending on local regulations.
As you compose your rental ads, avoid using language that could be considered discrimination, like indicating that you would not rent to seniors or people with children or that you won’t rent to those who live on government assistance. Next, as you gather applications and screen renters, fairly assess your applicants based on the information they provide and not on other criteria. By keeping professionalism and implementing an unbiased screening system, you can avoid discriminating against any potential renters.
Understanding Reasonable Accommodations
In the same way, it is essential not to assume that someone with a disability is automatically not a good candidate for your rental property. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, Brooklyn property managers are demanded to permit “reasonable accommodations” for their renters if they are necessary. By definition, a reasonable accommodation is “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” If your prospective renter otherwise meets the criteria for renting your property, accommodation should not be a reason to reject them. The accommodation a renter requests would be paid for and installed by the renter, with the condition that they will restore the property to its original condition upon move-out.
Other accommodations incorporate permitting service and emotional support animals in the rental property, even if you have a strong policy prohibiting pets. Service and emotional support animals are not included in a rental pet policy. You may not impose additional rent or fees if a renter has a service animal on the property.
Understanding all of the laws and best practices for leasing rental properties might be difficult. Why not delegate this vital responsibility to a professional property manager? At Real Property Management New York Gold, we provide transparent and anti-discriminatory screening and leasing services to help our rental property owners choose the best possible renters. Contact us today or call us at 347-905-5770 to learn more.
Originally published on June 4, 2021
We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.