Let’s be honest, whether it is an interview for a job or meeting with an applicant for a rental it’s easier to work with someone you like than someone you don’t. In a seat of power where you are the decision maker it becomes important to outline what you are looking for so that you remain protected from showing any type of discrimination that can be used against you. In the rental process this is especially important because making decisions based on subjective information can open the door to all sorts of fair housing violations. Follow these 5 tips on creating an objective rental process and you will greatly improve the protection of you and your owner’s best interests.
- Spell It Out: A clearly defined policy, in writing, that is included with your rental documentation that every applicant receives will alert them to any requirements they may not meet. While this might not deter them from applying for a unit, it will certainly help to make your job easier if you are forced to deny their application.
- Be Consistent: If you receive a credit report, an eviction report, a criminal report and verify past references on one applicant – you have to do it on ALL applicants. By asking for this information on one applicant and not another it shows that you are basing your decision off of personal views. Should the applicant fall into a protected class, they can argue this as the reason for your additional research which is why you should adhere to the next point.
- Include Exceptions: If you have experience in processing applications then I am sure you have come across any number of inconclusive information. Maybe they have a criminal history, but no judgments against them or maybe the previous address they provided didn’t return results. Add to your policy that you will require additional research is done if their screening report does not clearly meet your policy requirements.
- Outline Sub Sequential Conditions: If your policy requires it at the initial lease agreement, then it requires it during the duration of their residency as well. Any exceptions to this such as re-renting to a current resident who obtained an offense violating your policy during their residency, sets a precedence for future applicants to argue.
- Always Take Notes: Anyone who goes through your application process, whether they are approved or denied, should remain on file for at least 6 years. With all of these applications should be detailed notes on every encounter with the individual that includes some sort of information regarding the lease. This not only helps you remember what the situation was long after it has been concluded, but it also gives you a reference should an applicant ever argue about something you said or did for a previous person.
- Specify Social Media: If you have ever accessed an applicant’s Facebook, Twitter or other social account then you have to include a section for this on their application. By using this information and having it impact your decision in anyway, you are adding on to their background check and the applicant must be notified. Make certain that you note what factors may have been included in your decision – should a profile be privacy protected to only show their name and age or other fair housing factors they can argue that this information is what you based your decision on.
Keeping clear documentation and standards is your best weapon to make the right decision and avoid going off of the ‘what feels right’ decision. What other standards do you use to remain objective in your application process?