You may have perfectly valid reasons for choosing to not take on a specific individual as a tenant. However, if there are suspicions that you have chosen not to take on a tenant out of a desire to discriminate against someone on a basis of characteristics such as the individual's race, sex or religious affiliation, you may still be sued and possibly even lose your legal battle. To avoid a discrimination lawsuit in the first place, there are steps you can take to prove that you are not discriminating.
Be Careful with How You Word Advertisements
Even landlords that do not intend to discriminate against tenants can accidentally violate the law due to the wording of the advertisement. For instance, if you have an advertisement that makes it appear as if your apartment is designed to cater to a specific type of tenant, this can lead to other tenants believing that they cannot apply.
Have Specific Selection Criteria
To avoid a discrimination lawsuit, you will need to create a very specific screening criteria that can be used to prove that the reason for not allowing a tenant to live on your property is justified. For instance, you can choose a minimum credit rating a tenant must have to be accepted for a lease.
Research Local Laws
Another mistake is to not learn about the local laws regarding discrimination, which often expand upon already-existing rules. Some states do not allow for discrimination against tenants on a basis of sexual orientation and some laws do not allow for discrimination based on an individual's source of income.
Do Not Retaliate
Begin by understanding the laws regarding both discrimination and retaliation. Not only do you have to concern yourself with being sued over not taking on an applicant as a tenant, but you can also be sued for retaliating against a tenant for pursuing his or her legal rights, including the right to make a discrimination claim. You cannot terminate a lease, increase rent or decrease services simply out of retaliation.
If you have been accused of discrimination, you will usually receive a formal letter that will include a list of questions you must answer. As soon as you receive such a letter, you should hire an experienced real estate attorney (such as Steve Butcher Sr). If the courts believe that you are behaving in a discriminatory manner, you may be prevented from evicting a tenant, you may have to pay fines and you may also receive an order to stop engaging in discriminatory practices.