The Fair Housing Risks of Using Paper Rental Applications
Under provisions of the Federal law, the Fair Housing Act- 1968 was implemented to protect a tenant from discrimination and bias on part of the landlord. There are also additional fair housing regulations that vary state-by-state which we will cover at a future date. Among many other stipulations, the law specifically prohibits property owners and landlords from:
- Refusing to sell or rent out a house due to the race, religion, color, gender or nationality of the tenant
- Varying the terms and conditions of the rental or sale agreement on the basis of the race, religion or nationality of the tenant
- Advertising the sale or renting out of their property with a “preferred” section that seeks certain gender, race or nationals to apply
The penalty for violating the said act is severe. However, in the absence of proper rental documentation, compliance with such laws is potentially problematic for landlords. In essence, the use of paper rental applications prevents most landlords from complying with the anti-discriminatory regulations. Here are a few reasons why:
Most of the landlords within and outside the Bay Area report that the paper rental applications that they receive, are rarely complete. In most of the cases, the tenant provides half-finished applications that make it difficult for property owners to scourge for and scrutinize additional information. Some tenants provide basic bio data at first and additional bank statements and credit reports later, leaving the property owners with no option but to hand over the house to a new tenant in the interim period.
Due to the lack of complete information, landlords often discourage potential tenants from looking into their properties or steer such applicants towards another property. This constitutes a violation of the anti-discriminatory housing laws.
Preparing a rental agreement on paper is a hassle for both parties. The tenant has to fill out the application and pay the fee. The leasing agent then forwards the application to the office and performs a thorough background check. Any missing information is clarified. If approved, the leasing agent meets the applicant and obtains a security deposit and first month’s rent. In the meantime, your potential landlord might receive another rental application, which he/she may accept. There goes your home!
In contrast, online documentation is flexible and hassle free. A qualified and competent property manager, such as Onerent, offers and evaluates all electronic/online lease applications through an interactive portal. The process is simple and involves minimal costs.
Written rental agreements offer several other risks to compliance with equitable housing laws in one or more of the following ways:
- Missing documents or inconsistent information often leads to landlords telling you that no vacancies are available, when in fact there are
- The property owner may refuse to accommodate your disability if such information is not highlighted in your application
- Reasonable modifications in paper applications are difficult. Adding new information or updating existing particulars are quite a challenge. Such methods are not recommended for families, disability sufferers and retirees.
To avoid non-compliance with the equitable housing laws and incur penalties or to avoid being discriminated, landlords and tenants should switch to online documentation and rental applications.