As investors you always want to find the best possible tenant when filing a vacancy. The more information you have the better decision you can generally make.
However, there are certain questions you are better off keeping to yourself when showing a property. Staying on the right side of housing laws is the most important part of tenant screening.
Questions to Avoid When Screening Tenants
The rules vary state to state so this isn’t an exact science (plus I’m not a lawyer), but I want to share some that I generally use as blanket no-nos.
Do you have a disability?
It’s just rude to begin with, but more importantly violates fair housing laws.
Tell me about your kids?
Seems harmless enough while you are chatting up the potential tenant. I mean, friendly conversation does occur sometimes, we are human beings after all.
Family information will come on the application, wait to see it there. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about kids, just don’t directly ask.
Where are you from/where were you born?
Both questions fall under the “national origin” designation which is a protected calls in fair housing laws. Even if you like someone’s accent, asking them where they are from technically violates their rights.
Do you have a service animal?
As landlords we are allowed to ask about pets, but asking directly if someone has a service animal is usually a no-no.
When you ask if they have pets that is when you can get into breed and size restrictions. At that point the potential tenant will usually tell you themselves whether it is a service animal.
Choose Words Wisely
The above items may seem a little extreme in some cases. I mean, you are just having a friendly conversation with the person.
However, in the end it is a business so we need to put our business hat on when interviewing tenants. All it takes is asking one dumb question and you have a potential lawsuit from someone that feels slighted.
So be friendly, but pay mind to the questions you ask.