As a rental property owner in the Lakewood Ranch area of our beautiful Gulf Coast, you're likely considering the top ways you can protect your investment properties long term. One of the first thoughts that may come to mind—especially for single-family homes or desirable multi-family properties in our area, like condos—might be to limit who you rent to from the start.
The logic behind this is that if you select a renter carefully based on your own criteria for what you think represents a great renter, you'll place someone in your Lakewood Ranch rental home who you know is committed to ensuring your asset is well cared for.
As a Lakewood Ranch property management expert, we often see this manifest itself in the form of limiting your renters by sex or gender, but it can also pop up as some other preference. Unfortunately for property owners, when it comes to who you can and cannot allow into your Lakewood Ranch rental homes, this is HIGHLY illegal: Do NOT do this.
If you're looking for qualified tenants as you seek to grow your portfolio and enhance the rental properties you offer along the Gulf Coast, there's a right way to handle tenant placement. Let's discuss why the above mentality puts your properties at risk—and how to find and place future renters the right way.
Foreword: The following article is not a substitute for legal counsel. The information contained herein was current as of the time of writing. If you need immediate help with a pressing issue concerning your rentals, turn to a competent attorney or our property management services for real-time assistance!
Why 'Women Only' Doesn't Work
We understand why many investors along the Gulf Coast may seek female renters for their investment properties. Women are more clean, responsible, and quiet compared to their male counterparts, right? Wrong. Female renters come in just as many varieties as male renters do—and thinking this way is actually a form of bias that can cost you extensively in a court of law.
However, this bias—also referred to as a form of 'housing discrimination'—isn't only present in the way we look at the sex or gender of a renter. To address these forms of potentially inherent bias in housing, several important pieces of legislation were passed that now impact how investors in the Lakewood Ranch area can market their rental properties and select their next renter.
The Fair Housing Act
The first of these was the Fair Housing Act (FHA), introduced as a component of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This landmark legislation made it illegal to discriminate against certain protected classes when renting or buying a home, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in any housing-related activities.
As you can see, the scope of the last point is quite broad, which means it's better not to discriminate at all as an investor than try to 'pick and choose' where you can apply your own rules. The protected classes you need to concern yourself with most when working on tenant placement are:
- National Origin
- Familial Status
The Americans with Disabilities Act
That last class brings us to another piece of legislation: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act expanded on protections extended to those with disabilities, including their access to life-saving tools (like service animals) with respect to their housing.
These two powerful pieces of legislation made it imperative that property owners and investors in the Lakewood Ranch area looking to grow their portfolio do so with the understanding of these two laws in mind. If legalese isn't your strongest area of expertise, then you should be working with a Lakewood Ranch property management company that understands these laws and knows how to navigate them for you.
However, there is a better way to address finding the right renter than going based on your gut feeling and personal impressions—you need to review your tenant screening process.
Why Your Screening Process Matters
A professional screening process is defined by the fact that it is applied equally across the board to every applicant who wants to live in your Lakewood Ranch rental property. Rather than picking and choosing based on traits you see in a potential renter, a predefined set of criteria is laid out that helps you select your next resident.
We still recommend defining these criteria with the help of an attorney skilled in rental housing law or the expert assistance of a full-service property management company. Either will help you avoid the legal pitfalls of a bias-ridden screening process. However, the skills and services of the right property management company can help you grow your portfolio securely—and take your rental income to the next level.
When it comes to growing your portfolio, property management services are the better value. The best part is, you can sample the services of an expert property management company for free! If you're ready to grow your real estate portfolio along the Gulf Coast, get started with our FREE Guide to Growing Your Real Estate Portfolio!