Can I discriminate “female only “

34 Replies

I have a Detached Garage apartment that is on my sisters property that we will be looking for renters soon. My niece and nephew age 12and 9 will be alone for short periods of time. I live next door but separated by an acre. The property is in the country so a little secluded. We feel there are safety concerns. Legally can we advertise “Female only “ renters? Of course this does not exclude male children.

Thank you

@Karri Dick I'm pretty sure since it is her primary residence and she is also living on the property than you can discriminate. I know this applies for multi units like a duplex where you are living in the same building but might want to check with an attorney to see if it applies still since it's a separate building. I would think you still could though. If it were just a straight rental property you can't but since she's living there might be able to. 

I can't give you legal advice since I am not a lawyer, but there are some special provisions in the fair housing act law that exempt certain owner occupants from having to follow the same provisions of a professional landlord or a real estate broker. I would double check just to make sure there aren't any funky city/state rules that apply and make sure that your sister falls into the category where she is exempt. But from your post it sounds like she may not have to worry about the discrimination piece.

Generally, yes. Basic requirements for "legal" discrimination: housing unit on property occupied by the owner; owner has 4 or fewer units; property is not managed by a property manager. You can read the Fair Housing Act and get the specifics but I think you'd be fine here. You probably in fact need to be specific, including the lease, because you need to cover how guests, boyfriends, etc are dealt with as these situations are likely to come up.

That said: having a female only is no guarantee of safety for your niece and nephew. In fact, it might be more dangerous because you can background check renters but cannot check guests. Given the situation, and that there are concerns for unattended children, I would suggest skipping it as a rental property at this time. 

@Karri Dick there is an exclusion to following fair housing if it is owner occupied and four or less units on the property. That seems to apply in this case based on what you have stated (assuming your sister is the owner).

Just be aware that the exclusion to fair housing still does not allow you to advertise "female only". You are not allowed to state your preferences in advertising, but you can chose based on those preferences. It may sound strange, but that is how it works. Otherwise you would have nut jobs saying stupid stuff like "no blacks" and it would be legal.

Of course you can do what you want within the law, but I am not sure discriminating against men will make her and her family any safer. One of my best tenants is a 70 year old single male. One of my worst tenants years ago was a single female. Good screening goes much deeper than male or female.

@JD Martin

Thank you for your reply, sadly she needs the money. The children won’t be left alone for long periods of time, usually just short trips to the store and such, and likely not in the beginning of a new renter.

Now you rent it to a female . first that doesnt make it any safer than renting to a male . Women are dangerous also . Now when you rent it to a female , they attract male attention , and some females attract many different men . You will have no control over guests . And they wont be vetted . 

Originally posted by @Karri Dick :

I have a Detached Garage apartment that is on my sisters property that we will be looking for renters soon. My niece and nephew age 12and 9 will be alone for short periods of time. I live next door but separated by an acre. The property is in the country so a little secluded. We feel there are safety concerns. Legally can we advertise “Female only “ renters? Of course this does not exclude male children.

Thank you

You specifically do not live there, so you specifically can't discriminate based on gender.

If your sister owned the house (f. ex, maybe you added her to title) and lived there, she might qualify for the Mrs. Murphy Exemption. Note that the exemption applies to the actual gender discrimination, but not discriminatory advertisements. So she can discriminate, she's just not allowed to include the discrimination in her ads, evidently.

Check with a lawyer first. There might be some state or county thing more restrictive, or my understanding could be wrong, since I'm not a lawyer (& given how often lawyers are 100% dead wrong about mortgage things, it's not at all implausible that I could be 100% dead wrong about a lawyer thing). Let 'em have their $300/hr for 1 hour.

If safety is a real high concern in the situation, you are best not having a rental on the same property. Even if you rent to a female, you have near ZERO control over guests
The right person is the right person and you screen as best you can to mitigate any risk....but you cant eliminate it...... and guest don't even get screened, so that is totally out of your hands....
You could rent to a nice little old lady....seems 100% harmless...... but her dead beat son is a register sexual offender....... cant control his visits.....

@Karri Dick Being in law enforcement for 10 years, I have to agree with some other replies in this thread. While a female by herself might not cause a safety concern, you have no control over her social life and who she might encounter in the dating world (ps- guys are psychos) .

I dealt with a case with one female where she moved to our town to specifically get away from an old co worker who was stalking her 4 states away. He found her anyway and showed up to her place. I dealt with the guy for a time and he even gave me the creeps, which is saying a lot.

you could have someone identifying as a woman answer your ad and then what would you do? I would not put anything in regards to gender and just interview/pick the best female. 

@Karri Dick

As a parent I understand the thinking but as an investor with lots of years in the business I’d say your thinking would be incorrect in achieving your goal of thinking a female tenant is guaranteed to be safest bet. You want a tenant who will respect your sister, her privacy, understanding her kids will be alone at times and is willing to protect them or look after them without having to be there right next to them.

As a few pointed what if female has clean background. Who says her boyfriend or BF in near future will not bring headaches or trouble. You can only word the lease that outlines how long a person not on the lease can stay there for a given period of time, usually 10-14 days. Can’t dictate who she can bring into her rented apartment or at what time frame. Your going into a business arrangement money in exchange for a place for them to use.

I’d argue a guy might be just as good of a tenant than you might think for these reasons.

-running a background check will help identify any criminal past. Violence, theft, drug use etc.

-A credit check will help identify their responsibleness.

-Employment verification can help verify character if boss says he has worked here for 5yrs+ and everyone loves him at work...shows is like ability and his ability to get along with others. Longer at the job the more reliable person is to their commitment and responsibilities.

There is more control on your part to choosing the right tenant not based on just their sex.

Looking for someone who has clean record, good credit or at least stable employment who is mature would be better judge of character than just looking for a female who can charm you at the showing of the property.

Sorry such long post but the amount of years I’ve been a landlord and number of units I own I don’t use my gut feeling to place a tenant into one of my properties.....I run everyone through my screening process and that is what helps me to get best prospect for a property.

Best of luck

@Steve B.

You would be surprised. In CA a group of young male attorneys ventured into the nightclub world and caused a lot of headaches for club owners. Many clubs would advertise woman in free before certain time. These guys would show up before that time frame ask if they can get in free.... usually wouldn’t so they pay go to the bar order one drink and pay with credit card. Get receipt showing they were there before time frame. A week later the club owner would get court filed documents claiming discrimination based on gender. Most of these club owners choose to settle for thousands out of court versus fighting in court.

HUD sometimes chooses random rental listings and call unsuspecting landlords and pretend to be prospective renter. Anyone violating fair act gets a follow up with potential hefty fines.

@Luciano A. That’s a funny anecdote however there is one major difference.  That’s a private citizen pursuing a civil case with direct standing.  In the case of a “protected class” housing suit they are almost always initiated by the state.  We both can agree that state generally only pursues certain “favored” types of protected class suits despite the literal reading of the statutes 

Originally posted by @Karri Dick :

@Dennis M.

We wanted to have made it clear that we stated “no males” if it came up later.

 Why, fail to see how that does anything but harm you. Why not allow everyone apply and then pick the best tenant and leave it at that? If no one who applied was a good fit then wait untill you found one who is...