Florida Law on Renting to Undocumented / Illegal Immigrants

10 Replies

I just had what seemed to be a great family of 3 come look at an apartment I'm renting.  When it came time to fill out the application they asked if a Passport number (not from the US) would be Ok as they didnt have any S.S. cards.  

I have been searching this issue and cant find any substantial information on the internet.  I see some say it's fine while other say you can be fined and jailed for harboring illegals, while others say it's simply based on your local area.  

If anyone has insight into this issue I would be greatly appreciative for any info regarding it. 

@ Ben Naughton, a quick search on the topic revealed: the information shown below.  Please check with an attorney to confirm this as needed and all the best.  Would be interested in knowing what you find and if the information presented below is legally correct.  Cheers! :)

WHERE TO FIND: 

http://www.equalhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2012-Immigration-Status-FAQ.pdf

"Does immigration status affect whether a person is covered by the Fair Housing Act?

No. Every person in the United States is protected by the Fair Housing Act. A person’s immigration status does not affect his or her federal fair housing rights or responsibilities. The Act prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Such discrimination is illegal regardless of the victim’s immigration status.

Examples:

- If a landlord refuses to rent to someone because of a person’s religion, that is illegal discrimination regardless of immigration status.

- If a landlord charges a different price or asks for additional identification documents because of a person’s national origin, that is illegal discrimination regardless of immigration status.

- If a lender offers different terms on a mortgage to a prospective homebuyer because of the homebuyer’s race, that is illegal discrimination regardless of immigration status. "

I believe @Anna M. is only partially right. Everyone in the country is protected by Fair Housing but that doesn't mean you have to rent to everyone.

You should have a list of required qualifications for renters. For example, I require applicants to provide a social security number so I can process a credit/criminal background check. If they do not have a social security number, I could turn them away or I will ask for clarification. If they say the are here on a work permit, I will ask for proof because they are required by federal law to have documentation of their right to work in America. If they can't provide it, I can't prove they are working and I won't accept them. That's the same policy I have for the white kid born in Detroit.

What if they are in the country legally and don't have to work because they are wealthy or have some other means of support? In that case, they probably can't prove their source of income so I will require them to pay a really big deposit (typically equal to three month's rent) or to pay the entire lease in advance. 

My concern is with their ability to pay, not their nationality or immigration status. If they are here illegally, I run the risk of them being deported or just disappearing without notice. I screen to mitigate risk, not treat people poorly.

Great points @Nathan G.   And I actually was not sure if the article to answer his sole question of whether or not he could rent to an illegal immigrant was accurate or not.  I did a search just for that, but thus advising him to check with an attorney.  I like the additional points you bring up, which are oh, so very important.  I like to know that my tenants will stay and not be yanked off property by some legal mandate, so absolutely agree with you on being cautious renting to illegal immigrants from that perspective.  I too do what you suggested, which is request for pay in advance for those that may pose a flight risk, at least a slightly higher deposit, first and last month's rent and this is not illegal immigrants but people that have poor credit/items of concern on their credit. I really like Bigger Pockets because one really gets to learn so much and I find that people are so willing to share their knowledge which is just awesome!  :)

Maybe I missed it somewhere, why do you think they are illegal immigrants?  I know of people from other countries who have some for reason- sometimes medical- rent properties wthout any problems.  Many people from other countries do have the ability to maintain a residence here in the US without having to work here.  I would focus on ability to pay and security to 'cover  your back'.

Thank you for your replies and insight.

@Anna M. - I am aware on the Federal level the equal housing / the fair housing act applies, however what Im finding when researching is that things can be different based on the State and even the municipality your property resides in.  For example, from what I have found if you are in California it is not legal to even ask a potential tenant about their residency status while if you are in Oklahoma it is a felony if you rent to an undocumented immigrant.  

@Nathan G. - I also have set criteria when screening the applicant, including providing a photo ID and SS #.  So technically I would not rent to them in this situation.

However, I was interested to know specifically in Florida, because that is where my properties are located, if there are any laws speaking to this.  I was actually surprised at how difficult it was to research concrete information on this subject.  

I think the best answer is consult an attorney, but I am still interested to hear what others on this forum have to say.  Thanks

I also found this article to be helpful:  https://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/risks-rewards-renting-illegal-immigrants/

When I came to Florida 3 years ago with a foreigner’s work visa, I was asked to provide visa document except SSN, drivers license, passport and other regular documents. I remember I asked why they need my visa document and I was told: In FL, Apt was asked by state government to document tenants visa. So I had an impression the tenants in Florida has visa regulation.

As an landlord and realtor now, I know the tenants’s nationality is under protection but never know visa regulation. if no SSN, I can’t check credit and background, how to protect landlord?

As a owner/landlord you have the legal right to reject any applicant you choose. The only factor to consider is your reason. As a example you may reject due to a applicants attitude, appearance even a "feeling" you get when screening.

Most importantly is you must choose the most qualified based on your screening criteria. Risk is a criteria when considering how long a tenant may stay.

Choose the very best applicant that fits your criteria. If all your applicants are "illegal" choose the best of the bunch. If they are not all "illegal" you have more variables to choose from.

The right choice is always to select the best applicant when considering every variable to protect your business interests. 

Your business, your choice. Do not ever be afraid to choose the one you believe is the best fit for your business needs and the needs of all your tenants. When you lose money every tenant will suffer.

I'd consider it not as a problem with their status but rather how to qualify them.

If you rent them on the basis of great feeling, you're discriminating against others with not so good feeling about them.

All criteria must be the same for each tenant, documented and kept in case you'll be sued for discrimination.

If your criteria include income requirements, how do they prove it?

If they have pay stabs (W-2), there should be some legal status for work (employment authorization or working visa). Also, you'll need background check which can't be run without SSN.

If you choose not to run these screening, how can you reject other Tenants who didn't have enough income or had evictions/criminal records?

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