What you can’t ask when Interviewing Tenants
A lot of new landlords don’t understand that when you are interviewing tenants, there are a lot of boundaries that you can’t step over. Yet many landlords are doing this time and time again. Not only are they potentially turning off new tenants, but they are opening themselves up to potential legal issues.
Knowing what you can and can’t ask from a perspective tenant is very important for a landlord and can potentially save them a lot of hassle and legal issues. There may be things that a landlord asks a tenant that they don’t even think of as being inappropriate, but is actually not allowed under law and it is best not to do.
If you’re just chatting with a tenant and ask them what kind of music that they listen to or what they do for fun, things of that nature are not an issue. It is when you get into the more personal issues or things that could be construed as discrimination against them when you can run into trouble with a perspective tenant.
This article will point out some of the questions that you can’t ask when interviewing tenants and the reasons for that. Things like a perspective tenant’s race, religion, sexual orientation, and age are considering illegal in some states so it is best to steer clear of them. The laws may vary from state to state so it is best to know what you can/can’t ask of a perspective tenant. Landlords need to be careful on any questionnaires that they give their perspective tenants to avoid any awkward situations or potential legal issues. We get a lot of questions about these types of questions so we’ll do our best to answer them here. However, it is always best to check with the local laws as well. The key is to always err on the side of caution.
Here is a general list of questions or topics you can not ask of your prospective tenants during the interview process:
If they have been arrested:
This one’s actually a bit of a tricky one that I really need to clarify. You can ask a tenant if they have ever been convicted ot a crime. However you are not able to ask a tenant if they have been arrested. Due to “presumed innocent until proven guilty”, it’s illegal to for you to deny housing to someone who has been arrested, but have never been a convicted felon.
Their sexual orientation or preference:
You can not ask a tenant anything about their sexual preferences because if you refuse them, it can be seen as discrimination.
On top of that, you also cannot ask a tenant about their living situation. For example you cannot ask a tenant if they are married, or if they are single, or if they have children.
It may seem natural to ask tenants about disabilities; if your property isn’t suitable for people in wheelchairs for example, you may think to mention that or ask them if they have any sort of handicap. This is also not permitted however.
You can not ask an applicant about their age. Even if you “prefer mature tenants” to partying teenagers, you are not allowed to bring anything like that up during the interview process.
Race, Nationality and Religion:
You are not allowed to ask a tenant anything related to their race, national origin or their religion. You can’t even hint about it(ie: “There’s a great Christian Church just down the road).
Remember – no matter your personal opinion on any of the above issues or any prejudices you may have – you need to treat all tenants equally. Otherwise if you end up rejecting them, you are opening yourself up for potential legal issues.