It’s easy to make a fair housing mistake when you’re renting out a San Mateo property, and unfortunately, those mistakes are often expensive. The laws are always changing, and in California, our fair housing laws are even stricter than the federal Fair Housing Act.
It’s important that you know these laws or that you work with a San Mateo property management company that understands the risks and keeps you compliant.
We see a lot of rental property owners making the same fair housing mistakes, and today we’re highlighting some of the most common violations, and talking about what you can do to avoid them.
Fair Housing Violations in Advertising
When you’re marketing your rental home, you can talk freely about how large the home is, how much the rent will be per month, when the home will be available, and what the property’s benefits are – whether those happen to be great natural light, updated kitchen appliances, or a fenced backyard.
You cannot say it would be “great for single professionals.” You cannot say it’s close to churches. You cannot say that Section 8 applicants are not permitted.
Keep your rental property marketing accessible to everyone who is qualified. Including or excluding certain groups like families or religious minorities can be seen as discriminatory. Keep your advertising focused on what the property is and what it has to offer. Don’t make assumptions about who would want to live there and don’t talk about the types of tenants you would prefer.
Inconsistent Screening Processes in San Mateo
Put together a standard rental criteria or a set of qualifications. Make sure this is in writing and make sure you provide it to everyone who is interested in filling out an application. Then, make sure you follow your own standards consistently every time you screen a potential tenant. You have to screen each application the same way, otherwise you could be accused of discrimination. Denying one applicant because of a 580 credit score is not going to hold up in court if the tenant you eventually place has a 560 credit score. Be consistent.
Recently, it became illegal to deny an applicant because of subsidized housing vouchers. This means that if someone in the Section 8 program, for example, applies to rent your property and uses their housing voucher as proof of income, you have to accept the application and screen the tenant the same way you screen everyone else. It’s very easy to make a mistake here, and you have to be prepared. A written screening process that is documented and followed will be your best tool.
Service and Support Animals are not Pets
As a landlord, it’s your decision to allow pets or not allow pets in your San Mateo rental property. However, you cannot deny tenants with service or support animals. The fair housing laws do not consider those animals to be pets. They are, instead, accommodations.
This is another easy way to get caught up in a legal nightmare. You can ask for a medical explanation from a tenant who has an emotional support animal, but you cannot ask for that documentation from a tenant with a service animal such as a Seeing Eye Dog. This is another area of the law that is constantly evolving, and you need to be ready for a challenge if you try to charge a pet fee or a pet deposit for an animal that you believe to be a pet. If it’s a service or support animal, you cannot deny it and you cannot charge pet fees, deposits, or rent.
These are just a few examples of the trouble landlords find themselves in when they don’t completely understand the fair housing laws. If you’d like some help, work with a professional San Mateo property management company. We know the laws well, and we keep up with the changes. Contact our team at Five Star Property Management.