Questions Landlords Cannot Ask Their Prospective Tenants

BY: HARINI V 07/10/2013

Interviewing prospective tenants can be a nerve-wracking time for many landlords—especially if it’s their first time renting out an apartment—but they still need to make sure of the questions they can and cannot ask their potential tenants. Learn what not to say or ask a prospective tenant during your interview process:

  1. Any question that could potentially violate fair housing laws. This would include, but not be limited to, discrimination against the seven classes: color, race, sex, religion, national origin, family status, and disability. For example, you cannot ask a potential tenant about their sexual orientation as this could potentially lead to a discrimination claim. Also, a landlord needs to keep up-to-date on their particular state’s protected classes.
  2. You cannot ask if a tenant has ever been arrested. You can, however, ask if they have ever been convicted of a crime, which is different than if they’ve been arrested. By law, a tenant who has been convicted of a crime must answer questions about that conviction. Alternately, you can use a thorough screening process such as the one offers to get a comprehensive background check which includes a tenant’s criminal history as well.
  3. Don’t ask questions that aren’t part of your usual qualification or interview process. Have a prearranged set of questions that you ask all potential tenants and don’t stray from them. If you ask questions that are different than those you normally ask, a tenant can accuse you of discrimination.
  4. Landlords cannot ask if a tenant plans to have (more) children. This question would be considered discriminatory. A landlord should not care how many children a tenant might or might not have in the future and choosing a single professional over a family will make a landlord liable for discrimination claims that may arise.


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