Unknowingly renting to illegal immigrants ......

113 Replies

Just wondering if there could be any issues with unknowingly renting to illegal immigrants. As a landlord, are we responsible for inquiring as to their citizenship? Could we get into trouble legally if we don’t?

Some of our best tenants have been illegal immigrants.
As a landlord, we haven't had an obligation to ask about someone's immigration status. However, this may be changing depending on the jurisdiction of your rental property.  I'm not aware of any federal laws that require us to delve into immigration issues or report non-compliance.

When I worked 14 years as Manager of Accessibility Services at a major medical center, we were careful not to ask about a patient's immigration status. We provided accommodations for people with disabilities as well as language/cultural support services as necessary to achieve effective communication and positive health outcomes. I was the hospital compliance officer for the ADA, Rehabilitation Acts, and Civil Rights Acts. This was never an issue as a provider of health care. We did not have a need to know a person's immigration status, so we simply did not ask.

Crazy but It’s part of our wacked  out laws .. and we wonder why we have the problems and issues with this topic in this country  ! It is my belief  You should try to make every Reasonable effort to confirm the person is legal atleast from an ethical patriotic standpoint as an American. 

Check your state and local laws.  I know at least one state (Oklahoma) passed a law, in the late 2000s, to make it a crime for a landlord to rent property to someone in the country illegally.  I think that law may have been challenged in court, but I don't know the outcome.

Some other states and cities have a law that you can't ask about the immigration status of tenants or prospective tenants.

I believe a local municipality tried to make a law that required landlords to verify immigration status about 10 years ago or so. I think it was struck down because its the federal governments job to police immigration not state, county, or local government. 

@Sean Tippens as long as they pay the rent and take care of your property, I don’t see any issues. They are, after all, believe it or not, “patriotic” or not, human beings just like anyone else.

They need a place to live, a place to raise their children. And trust me, they will probably take care of the place more than the “citizens” of this county.

@Sean Tippens I'm on my phone and do not have the information available right now but there is a federal law that forbids landlords from renting to illegal immigrants.

rather than get into the politics of it, just think of it from a business standpoint.

First, you should be screening your applicants with identity verification, a full credit report, and a criminal background check. This can only be done if they have a tax ID which means they would be in the country legally.

Second, if they decide to leave the country or are forcibly removed from the country, you will have no recourse to recover losses. it's just like renting to somebody with a 450 credit score; you have no leverage over them to ensure compliance and they have no ties to the country that compel compliance.

If you do not know whether they are legal or illegal citizens, then you are failing in your screening process and opening yourself up to an increased level of risk. That's a bad business decision.

Renting to people here illegally has risk for the landlord. They may not use a real social security number for credit screening. There is also the risk of deportation. The tenant leaves over night and you are left with their belongings, unpaid rents and a broken lease.  There is no way to collect unpaid rents after someone leaves the country, so the landlord will be left holding the bag for these expenses. Whether a landlord accepts these risks is their business decision.

I require valid social security number for credit screening and state issued photo ID. Other than that, I don't get into questions of citizenship. I screen for income, credit and rental references. 

@Melody Kushi  stereotypes are dangerous no matter what group of people you are targeting. I think that was your point, but it is not necessary to attack fellow citizens in an effort to make it. My advice to everyone is stick to using employment, credit and rental references for screening. Using race, color, sex or national origin for screening is illegal and morally wrong.

@Nathan G. I think the law you are referring to is Federal statue 8 U.S.C.A. § 1324, which makes it illegal to harbor or encourage someone to stay here illegally. I don't think landlords are at any risk of being prosecuted under this law. Especially if they are not asking citizenship status as part of the application process. Businesses, on the other hand, are being prosecuted for knowingly employing people here illegally, so that is an area of caution.

@Rich Littlefield that's a common comment made by amateur Landlords. They take the first person with cash in hand and think life is easy. They eventually become my client when they get tired of losing money.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :

First, you should be screening your applicants with identity verification, a full credit report, and a criminal background check. This can only be done if they have a tax ID which means they would be in the country legally.


https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/facts-about-individual-tax-identification-number-itin
Many illegal immigrants have a legally obtained ITIN.  Illegal immigrants can pay taxes just like everyone else if they choose to.  

Additionally, it is relatively commonplace for illegal immigrants to share documents with family members who have legal status, or they simply stole a number from someone else.  So that SSN card that you "verified" could easily be someone else's card, and not the actual applicants.  

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/illegal-immigrants-cited-in-theft-of-39-million-social-security-numbers

Also, while you are (generally) allowed to ask about immigration status (some states actually forbid asking), you must still abide by fair housing laws which means you would have to ask every single one of your applicants to prove their citizenship, not just people you suspect may be illegal.  

While there is very little recourse if they are deported, the chances of your renter being deported is virtually non-existent.  The overwhelming majority of deportations are of those that are caught at the border, or are caught committing crimes.  They obviously weren't caught at the border if they are renting from you, and if they committed a crime then they would be going to jail anyway so either way you would be screwed.  Many illegals live a low key lifestyle to avoid being targeted, and there is a high likelihood that they will be a much better renter than anyone else that you will find.

As soon as I am put on ICE's payroll, I will start caring about peoples immigration status, until then it's none of my business.  It's the governments job to enforce immigration laws, not mine.


Originally posted by @Bob Daniels :
Originally posted by @Nathan G.:

First, you should be screening your applicants with identity verification, a full credit report, and a criminal background check. This can only be done if they have a tax ID which means they would be in the country legally.


https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/facts-about-individual-tax-identification-number-itin
Many illegal immigrants have a legally obtained ITIN.  Illegal immigrants can pay taxes just like everyone else if they choose to.  

Additionally, it is relatively commonplace for illegal immigrants to share documents with family members who have legal status, or they simply stole a number from someone else.  So that SSN card that you "verified" could easily be someone else's card, and not the actual applicants.  

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/illegal-immigrants-cited-in-theft-of-39-million-social-security-numbers

Also, while you are allowed to ask about immigration status, you must still abide by fair housing laws which means you would have to ask every single one of your applicants to prove their citizenship, not just people you suspect may be illegal.  

While there is very little recourse if they are deported, the chances of your renter being deported is virtually non-existent.  The overwhelming majority of deportations are of those that are caught at the border, or are caught committing crimes.  They obviously weren't caught at the border if they are renting from you, and if they committed a crime then they would be going to jail anyway so either way you would be screwed.  Many illegals live a low key lifestyle to avoid being targeted, and there is a high likelihood that they will be a much better renter than anyone else that you will find.

As soon as I am put on ICE's payroll, I will start caring about peoples immigration status, until then it's none of my business.  It's the governments job to enforce immigration laws, not mine.

Tax ID is only issued to citizens and foreigners with proper work permits. Illegal immigrants do not have Tax ID unless they've stolen it from someone, which is a good indication that they are not a good prospect.

Do you rent to people with fake ID or stolen identity? I don't because those are high-risk tenants. Verifying they have not stolen someone's identity is pretty easy and common practice for a professional Landlord.

Don't take offense; it's business and our business is all about mitigating risk. If you want to throw caution to the wind to feel better about yourself as a global citizen, more power to you. But don't stand here and tell people it's a wise business decision because it is not. People that break into the country are a higher risk demographic. Even more so if they use a stolen Identity.

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :
Originally posted by @Bob Daniels:
Originally posted by @Nathan G.:

First, you should be screening your applicants with identity verification, a full credit report, and a criminal background check. This can only be done if they have a tax ID which means they would be in the country legally.


https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/facts-about-individual-tax-identification-number-itin
Many illegal immigrants have a legally obtained ITIN.  Illegal immigrants can pay taxes just like everyone else if they choose to.  

Additionally, it is relatively commonplace for illegal immigrants to share documents with family members who have legal status, or they simply stole a number from someone else.  So that SSN card that you "verified" could easily be someone else's card, and not the actual applicants.  

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/washington-secrets/illegal-immigrants-cited-in-theft-of-39-million-social-security-numbers

Also, while you are allowed to ask about immigration status, you must still abide by fair housing laws which means you would have to ask every single one of your applicants to prove their citizenship, not just people you suspect may be illegal.  

While there is very little recourse if they are deported, the chances of your renter being deported is virtually non-existent.  The overwhelming majority of deportations are of those that are caught at the border, or are caught committing crimes.  They obviously weren't caught at the border if they are renting from you, and if they committed a crime then they would be going to jail anyway so either way you would be screwed.  Many illegals live a low key lifestyle to avoid being targeted, and there is a high likelihood that they will be a much better renter than anyone else that you will find.

As soon as I am put on ICE's payroll, I will start caring about peoples immigration status, until then it's none of my business.  It's the governments job to enforce immigration laws, not mine.

Tax ID is only issued to citizens and foreigners with proper work permits. Illegal immigrants do not have Tax ID unless they've stolen it from someone, which is a good indication that they are not a good prospect.

Do you rent to people with fake ID or stolen identity? I don't because those are high-risk tenants. Verifying they have not stolen someone's identity is pretty easy and common practice for a professional Landlord.

Don't take offense; it's business and our business is all about mitigating risk. If you want to throw caution to the wind to feel better about yourself as a global citizen, more power to you. But don't stand here and tell people it's a wise business decision because it is not. People that break into the country are a higher risk demographic. Even more so if they use a stolen Identity.

 "Tax ID is only issued to citizens and foreigners with proper work permits"

That part is incorrect, a SSN is issued to those folks authorized to work, an ITIN # (starts with '9') is issued to the rest who don't qualify for a SSN but are obligated to file a tax return.

In the mid-to-low class C property spectrum, I think having a SSN and therefore reportable credit is worthless. These are folks you can't/won't collect on anyhow, minus that 1 in 1000 person who turns their life around and needs to qualify for a mortgage. So I treat folks w/o a SNN (IE likely here illegally) slightly above those with NO credit, which I put above those with BAD credit. Bad credit = proven risk, no credit = possible risk, no ability to get credit (ITIN) = possible risk, slightly less. I note slightly less because since they usually cannot procure credit, there is less risk of them becoming indebted beyond their means, so the income multiplier is more meaningful/accurate.

A large percentage of my applicants and tenants in my main area I work aren't here legally. There are other ways to check on how reliable these folks are beyond their credit reports, just like any other C/C- tenant.

@Sean Tippens illegal immigrants are THE BEST tenants. If they act up, all you have to do is ask them to leave. If not you call the authorities. Citizens or legal residents.... ohhh buddy! They want to challenge you in court, and cause a ruckus! Not worth it. (Mind you I live in NY, even squatters have tenant rights)

Originally posted by @Nathan G. :


Tax ID is only issued to citizens and foreigners with proper work permits. Illegal immigrants do not have Tax ID unless they've stolen it from someone, which is a good indication that they are not a good prospect.

You may want to double check that claim before calling people amateur landlords, per the IRS own website:  

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/20-Immigration%20and%20Taxation.pdf

• Individuals eligible for an ITIN include:
– Unauthorized immigrants,
– Lawfully present individuals, and
– U.S. resident aliens/nonresident aliens



IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for those not eligible for Social Security numbers. They are issued regardless of immigration status, because both resident and nonresident aliens may have a U.S. filing or reporting requirement under the Internal Revenue Code. ITINs do not serve any purpose other than federal tax reporting.


Additionally, the IRS is bound by law to not disclose the immigration status of people filing their taxes to other agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security. 




Originally posted by @Eric Perdomo :

@Sean Tippens illegal immigrants are THE BEST tenants. If they act up, all you have to do is ask them to leave. If not you call the authorities. Citizens or legal residents.... ohhh buddy! They want to challenge you in court, and cause a ruckus! Not worth it. (Mind you I live in NY, even squatters have tenant rights)

 You can't threaten to call the authorities on illegal immigrants.  

http://www.equalhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Immigration-FAQ-Fact-Sheet.pdf



What can I do if a landlord or neighbor
is threatening me?
It is illegal to coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with a
person’s exercise or enjoyment of rights granted or protected
by the Fair Housing Act. This includes threats to report a
person to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if
they report housing discrimination to HUD. HUD does not
inquire about immigration status when investigating claims of
housing discrimination.



https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/23/nyregion/immigrants-tenants-rights.html

Link to a court ruling where a judge fined a landlord 17k for threatening to call ICE.

@Bob Daniels I can... and I will if the tenants are being disrespectful, not paying rent, destroying my property, and/or if I feel myself or my property is in danger.

I think you're taking what im saying out of context. Calling the authorities is not to be used as a scare tactic, its only for emergencies or to prevent altercations (have a mediator). Don't get too worked up my friend.

My worst tenants were Americans. 

It's a good cash flow steam. Many of them are not married (at least not verifiably in America) By keeping there income separate, the men work illegibly while the women collect what they can from the government. It's sad, but  politically protected, and they do not pay into the system via taxes, so they have less problems coming up with rent money.  

When the hospital asks who the father of a child is, they just say "father unknown" so there is no one to collect child support from. 

Generally speaking, they just pay the rent, they are very grateful for what they are getting, and will not try to sue you for going over your 21 day disposition deadline or some thing silly like that. You will not hear an illegal claiming there dog is for emotional support. They will just get rid of it when you confront them. 

Think about it, do you ask your tenants if they killed there unborn children?  Do you have a problem with men who have sex with other men living in your homes? ( I dare you to find that wrong ). Do some of your driveways have trucks parked in them with inappropriate bumper stickers showing where children can read them? or a set of rubber balls hanging from the back bumper? I for one never thought in a million years I live to see women with skulls tattooed on there arms. 

You kind of have to set aside some of those feelings and opinions to make it in business in these last days. If not, you will get a permanent "landlord face". You will drowned in your anger if you read that liberal stuff that is being put out. We got rid of our TV. I feel so much better. 

If you don't like it, I suppose you could dispose of there applications, just don't brag about it to your friends.  

Shawn Coverdell

Homes in the Hood