Landlord-tenant disputes are common, and even those landlords who try to ensure the best communication find themselves in sticky legal situations. One of the most common issues addressed in these disputes is a violation of fair housing law. Even in cases where landlords operate with good intentions, the framing of legal issues can be used to imply discrimination. While it is important to be very attentive to your tenants, there are a number of precautionary rules you can implement before the lease is even signed to ensure you are protected and that tenants are treated fairly.
Be Wary of How You Advertise
Landlords will often try to personalize their advertisements in order to reach their ideal clientele more easily. Advertising your condo or apartment as “great for couples” may seem like a good idea at the time, but any indication of advertising towards a certain demographic can be used against you later on. Any and all promotions for your properties should focus instead on the features and amenities of the property itself. Additionally, it is important to include some sort of disclaimer that ensures you are compliant with Fair Housing rules. Once potential tenants have shown interest in your property, it is also important that you show all visitors all parts of the property equally. If a visitor declines not to see any amenity, then it should be okay to skip that part of the tour. However, if you fail to show a family of four the communal pool and playground upon their initial visit, it may seem as though you, as a landlord, did not want to show the property in its best light to those potential tenants.
You Have Authority to Set the Rules
When it comes to the application process, landlords should always make sure that their policies are clear from the very beginning. Things such as rental criteria and occupancy guidelines should be included, but application components should also be thoughtful in their wording. For example, any questions about mental and physical disabilities can qualify as a violation of fair housing law. When your potential tenant is looking over all of the paperwork, landlords should also include a very specific list of house rules. As the property owner, this is totally within your right. However, rules should not target a specific group and language should commonly refer to either the “guest” or “residents”. By bearing these things in mind, a landlord can have more confidence in his or her relationship with tenants.
When Things Still Go Wrong
If you have already taken the steps necessary to ensure a safe environment for tenants, but you are still facing legal threats, arm yourself with the best protection. Our team at DeVries and Associates works to defend both business and property owners from bad deals or messy disputes. If you have legal concerns, call either our Honolulu office at 808-465-2500 or our Kailua Kona office at 808-339-3200 today.