How to Screen Tenants and Avoid Discrimination Claims in Leasing Fayetteville North Carolina Properties

If you are considering renting your home in Fayetteville, and don’t want to use a property management company, one of the most important things you need to consider is how to screen a tenant and avoid a discrimination lawsuit.

Any property management company in Fayetteville should be able to assist you in properly screening your tenants, however, landlords who wish to represent their own property interest, sometimes don’t know the correct method to screen tenants, and what is the legally correct way to go about doing it.

First, we should start with the federal law related to housing, and will discuss the Fair Housing Act. While the Fair Housing Act is a federal statute, it applies across the United States, and to North Carolina and Fayetteville equally.

The Fair Housing Act is contained across different laws in the United States Code, in 42 U.S.C. 3601 through 42 U.S.C. 3619 and 42 U.S.C. 3631. Provisions in the Fair Housing Act which are illegal include discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, family status, and physical or mental disability.

Additionally, there are other federal laws, and North Carolina state laws, which apply to the leasing or buying properties in Fayetteville, but we will only touch on a few that relate to the tenant screening process for your property.

In our opinion, if you do decide to manage your own property, we recommend that you adopt an approach to your tenant screening process that eliminates most of the common pitfalls landlords in Fayetteville face. Additionally, your process should be consistent and fair across the board. Being overly strict, within the confines of what you are legally allowed to do, is always the best course of action. And remember, what you do with one tenant, you should always do with all.

Below are some examples to illustrate a good policy to follow.

If you order a credit report on one adult, which we recommend you always do, then all subsequent adults should also have their credit reviewed. In other words, if you have two applicants for the same property, then you should order a credit report on both of them. But when ordering the credit report, ensure that you are doing it in the legally acceptable manner, which includes having the potential tenant consent for the report.

The next major tenant screening area for property owners without a management company is the criminal background check. This is an area where landlords may find themselves in a legal bind if they don’t check all applicants credit. If, for example you have an applicant who is a police officer, and another who is a restaurant worker, although you may believe the police officer is an upstanding Fayetteville citizen, and doesn’t need a credit report, you should run a background check on both applicants.

Additionally, never make a decision based on personal preferences. Treat the decision you make from a business perspective, remove any bias you may have out of the equation, and base this decision on the predetermined neutral process you have in writing. Remember, if you have your policy in writing, you are less likely to experience a lawsuit. 

In order to limit your exposure to legal attacks, decisions should not be based on personal preferences. Each applicant should be considered a business decision that should be measured only by your pre-determined, written criteria.

Last, and we can’t state this enough, always make sure your process is lawful. There is a vast body of law that governs housing, and even though you are not a property management professional, legally, you are bound by the same laws as if you had a real estate license. The law does not recognize a different standard.

At Linchpin Property Management we are experts at legally, and properly conducting tenant screenings. If you have any questions about your current practice, please feel free to contact us, and we will work with you FREE of charge to provide you with a clear concise road map to manage your property.

The Team At Linchpin Property Management