Can't discreminate against felonies or sex offenders?

21 Replies

Don't discriminate based on any one reason and get yourself sued out of business. Choose your tenants based on their ability to pay, their rental history, their fit for your unit, i.e family too big for unit, they have pets, they smoke, etc. We all discriminate when we select tenants because we want tenants who pay the rent on time, who follows the rules specified in the lease, and who won't wreck the place. Finding tenants that meet those qualifications can be very tough; meeting them, as a tenant, can be equally as tough. Do your due diligence, and be sure to rent to those folks that meet your standards CONSISTENTLY!

@Tim Sabo is correct. If your screening involves multiple area's of consideration (income, rental history, credit, etc.) and you remain consistent in all areas, you greatly reduce the chances of disparate impact. Rejecting ALL felons and sex offenders has recently been a topic of controversy for screening tenants. My recommendation would be to detail out the reject --  such as:

 - Applicants with felonies of malicious intent in the past 5 years = Rejected

 - Applicants with felonies of malicious intent over 5 years prior = Reviewed (may affect overall applicant "scoring")

 - Applicants with felonies of non-malicious intent in past 5 years = Reviewed (may affect overall applicant "scoring")

 - Applicants with felonies of non-malicious intent over 5 years prior = No impact

 - Sex Offenders = Reviewed (may affect overall applicant "scoring")

I would recommend having criteria in writing on how you review those marked "Reviewed" and this can vary from company, as long as it is consistent for all applicants. 

I believe the intentions of this are to press landlords to do some research before an automatic rejection based on one specific reason. If someone has a DUI felony from 9 years ago, and has been clean ever since, does that truly make them less likely to be a suitable tenant than a someone with 10 misdemeanors in the last 2 years? As for sex offenders, I have a friend who in college got drunk and was arrested for public urination and was put on the sex offenders list --  he is currently a doctor. 

As a note, this is not legal advice and you should have your screening criteria reviewed by an attorney.

Sex offenders have an extremely negative impact on my ability to rent the other units in my multi unit buildings. Their ability to pay is irrelevant if my other units are sitting empty.

As my friend would say, Washington is just as screwy as California.

As a landlord you have many ways to be as selective as you choose without openly discriminating. Any landlord that accepts a tenant that they do not really want is doing a very poor job of managing their business and will likely not be in business very long.

If you accept a tenant you do not want you have no grounds to complain.

I once knew a landlord that had many houses for rent. Here's what he told me he did. He told them all that he might have something come up and got their info. Then he would follow them out to their car and open the door for them.

If the car was filthy nasty they would not get a call back or even  a credit check. If it was he vetted them the rest of the way. It seemed to work for him.

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@Account Closed

No you are right. He didn't tell them their car was nasty though. He never even said he would rent to them either. He said maybe he might have something come up. Now understand, this guy has been dead for almost twenty years now.

But, if a tenant wont take care of a car that they pay for they aren't likely to take of your house that you pay for.

I have to ask the obvious. (disclaimer, I am not a REI yet but will be soon) What is the difference in discriminating against someone because a poor credit rating or discriminating because they don't take care of stuff? Are they both similar?

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@Account Closed Yes its a slippery slope. There is really not many [free] places for a landlord to complain about tenants but plenty for tenants to complain about landlords.

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Currently I've got an inherited tenant that is a sex offender and is M2M in a four-plex and pays on time every month. Recently, I just evicted two tenants in the same four-plex for not paying rent but was able to rent both units which I just renovated. Still thinking how to handle the situation.

I don't understand why people make such a big deal out of this crap. You don't have to tell a tenant why you didn't accept them. You can discriminate based on race, sex, religion, anything, AS LONG AS YOU DON'T TELL THEM! Even if you have a good reason, don't ever give an applicant a specific reason why you are denying them. "Sorry, you do not meet our qualifications", or "Sorry, we have chosen another applicant"

Sometimes when I meet somebody I just don't like them. I don't always have a reason, but if I don't like you, you won't be my tenant.

@Account Closed

You have exactly the right approach to doing business. Those that do not take heed get the tenants they deserve and deserve the tenants they get.

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

@Mike Reynolds It is no reason to reject a tenant if their car is nasty. You could get sued.

Being a slob is not a protected class. Not sure there is any state in the union that would see this as unlawful discrimination.

It's amazing to me that so many people these days are on board with telling other people how to run their business. I imagine any politician who actually had skin in the game wouldn't be out there saying that we need to make felons, sex offenders, jerks, slobs, etc. protected classes. You should 100% be allowed to choose who associate with and who you do business with, period. Unfortunately, this isn't the case in most places.

If every landlord in a city decided not to rent to sex offenders/felons/whoever, guess who would have a never-ending pool of tenants? Someone who came in and said they would rent to sex offenders/felons/etc. The free market would solve all these problems.

At least you can still do income, housing record, and make security deposit high enough. 

Gut goes along way 1

Well what's next, does all their government housing aid now get updated going forward. Now is Section 8 in Washington going to accept same. 

I agree with @Account Closed as far as method.  I will not accept a tenant not an investor with any criminal record.  I was in a situation recently where a convicted sex offender wanted to invest half a million with me.  I told him no.  Life is too short to do business with people you don't like and there is a risk it would reflect badly on me and negatively impact my reputation if I did accept his investment.

Originally posted by @Account Closed :

You can discriminate based on race, sex, religion, anything, AS LONG AS YOU DON'T TELL THEM!

On the off-chance that you're not just trolling; I'm not the most experienced landlord here but I'm pretty sure that there aren't too many cases anymore where a landlord just outright says, "Sorry, but Blacks/Gays/Jews/whatever aren't welcome here." Discriminate all you want but if one of those rejected tenants ever files a complaint you better hope you can document a legal reason why you chose someone else.

Discriminate all you want but if one of those rejected tenants ever files a complaint you better hope you can document a legal reason why you chose someone else.

Piece of cake for a experienced landlord.

Originally posted by @Scott Pigman :
Discriminate all you want but if one of those rejected tenants ever files a complaint you better hope you can document a legal reason why you chose someone else.

 Not a concern. When you get to court, all you have to say is the same thing you told the tenant: "I had a more qualified applicant".

The end.

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