Providing an equal housing opportunity to all of your potential applicants is one of your responsibilities as a landlord. You need to establish and share your qualifying rental criteria so everyone knows what’s required to be approved. Then, you need to accept and screen every application, creating a consistent and fair screening process for all parties.
Today, we’re talking about fair housing laws in Long Beach. It’s important to understand that California fair housing laws often go much further in protecting tenants than the federal Fair Housing Act does. It’s easy to make a mistake, and if you find yourself in a lawsuit or a dispute, that mistake will be expensive.
Fair Housing and Rental Rights: Federal and State Laws
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law, which was passed in 1968, and has been modified and strengthened several times since then. This law prohibits housing discriminating on the basis of the following seven protected classes:
- National origin
- Familial status
The federal law is enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In the state of California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act) are the laws that govern housing discrimination and ensure an equal opportunity to housing. There are more protections in the state law than in the federal law, including the following reasons that an applicant cannot be denied rental housing:
- Source of income
- Gender identity
- Gender expression
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
- Genetic information
- Primary language
- Immigration status
These fair housing laws are strict and they come with severe penalties if you’re found to violate one. Make sure your marketing and screening practices have been reviewed by an attorney or a Long Beach property manager.
Section 8 as Source of Income
Recently, The Tenant Protection Act became law and this pays special attention to the source of income protection that exists in California fair housing laws. Section 8 housing vouchers are to be considered a source of income when you’re screening tenants. In the past, landlords and property owners could decide independently whether they’d rent to Section 8 tenants or not. Now, any such tenants who are otherwise qualified cannot be denied simply because of their participation in an affordable housing program. The housing voucher they receive must be considered income.
Avoid Fair Housing Mistakes with Documentation
A well-documented tenant screening process will protect you and your Long Beach rental property. Make sure you online listing does not discriminate – overtly or covertly against any protected classes. Avoid mentioning Section 8, don’t talk about any houses of worship that may be close to the property and avoid saying things like “ideal for single professionals.”
The screening process must be documented, followed consistently, and effective in looking at each application objectively. Make sure you provide all potential applicants with a written copy of your rental criteria. This should establish minimum credit standards, income levels, and other requirements such as no history of eviction or felony convictions.
The law is always changing, and if you don’t have the time or the resources to stay up to date with what’s required, working with a Long Beach property management company can save you from liability and risk. If you would like to hear more about how we can help, please contact us at HCM Property Management.