Questions for SR – Fair Housing

Fair Housing – Know the Law

A recent study by the Seattle Times found that there was widespread discrimination in over half of the 48 apartment buildings they tested. Overall, 36% of landlords were found to have discriminated against the disabled, and 69% discriminated against African-Americans. As a result, the Office of Civil Rights has brought fair housing discrimination cases against the property owners. Discrimination suits are not criminal charges, but can result in a large cost  to landlords. It is important to know the law regarding fair housing and discrimination.

The Fair Housing act states that it is an unfair practice to discriminate based upon: sex, marital status, race, creed, color, national origin, families with children status, or the presences of any sensory, mental or phsyical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a disable person. You are not allowed to apply a ‘no pets’ policy to a guide dog or other approved service animal. It is also illegal to refuse to make reasonable modifications to the unit or building to accomodate the needs of a disabled person.

What exactly is illegal? The refusal to rent or negotiate, setting different terms or conditions based on different applicants or tenants, denying housing is available when there is vacancy, or advertising or making a statement that limits preferences.

For more information on the Fair Housing Act: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/FHLaws/yourrights

Related Articles: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016575481_housing22m.html

If you ever have any questions, you can always ask us here at SeattleRentals on our Facebook Page, through Twitter or in the comment section below.

Questions for SR – Credit Reports

A credit check should be conducted before leasing to any and all prospective tenants. But once you have the report in hand, what should you be looking for? What’s a ‘warning flag’ and what’s ok? Here are some tips for dealing with a credit report:

  • Not all credit reports are the same. Make sure you look at reports from all 3 credit-reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
  • Double check that all information on the report is consistent with the information on the application. Inconsistencies can be a red flag.
  • Compare information from a report to information you receive from other sources, such as references and previous living situations.
  • The scores you see give the most weight to: a history of accounts going over 90 days late (vs. only one or two going late), current delinquencies, and multiple credit balances at or near maximum.

  • Most important to evaluate are the sections showing collection and credit account information. Look for patterns. For example, one account assigned to collections while all others are paid on time – this could signify one large expense (such as medical), does not necessarily reflect badly on the applicant. Also look for revolving charges matching the locations of clients previous addresses.
  • If there is a discrepancy that you would like to learn more about with a prospective tenant, a landlord is allowed to discuss the nature of the problem and give the tenant a chance to discuss or explain – however, a landlord may not give a copy of the report to a tenant.
  • There are companies that will evaluate a credit report for you, such as Beacon or Fair, Isaac – either by making a decision themselves as to whether a client is qualified, or by providing you with an easier to understand rating system.

Taking the time to read and interpret a credit report can provide you with valuable information on a prospective tenant and is an important part of the screening process. It greatly helps the ability to predict the likelihood of a tenant living up to rental and tenancy obligations.

If you ever have any questions, you can always ask us here at SeattleRentals on our Facebook Page, through Twitter or in the comment section below.

Questions for SR – How to Boost Retention

Apartment dwellers are, by nature, a temporary sort. They are prone to moving around with more ease and more often than home owners. In order to keep tenants, there are some things a landlord can do in order to make it more appealing to stay. Here are some tips for boosting tenant retention:

1. Offer renewal incentives.

Offer renewing tenants incentive such as one-half or one month free on the anniversary of their move-in. Many Landlords will offer this to new tenants, but that strategy only gets tenants in, it doesn’t keep them. Offering tenants the same kind of deal makes them feel wanted as well.

2. Improvements.

Guarantee tenants that you will perform limited upgrades and improvements every 1 – 2 years. Work such as new paint, updated fixtures, etc., is work that would most likely be done on a vacant apartment and will help the apartment to stay looking good, whenever a tenant does move on.

3. Amenities.

Offer monthly raffle drawings for tenants. Talk to service providers about deals for WiFi or cable that could be passed on to the tenant, or offer free WiFi in common areas in the apartment building (lobby/roof/laundry room).

4. Be a good landlord!

What tenants want most of all is to be treated well, and fairly. Give tenants holiday cards thanking them for their tenancy. Perform maintenance and get back to tenant requests in a timely manner. In the event of rent increases, make sure you explain them to tenants and give them fair warning. Provide a forum for feedback so you can learn what is going well and what isn’t.  And always respond to tenants in a courteous, kind and prompt manner. Not only will good treatment result in better retention of current tenants, but word of mouth about good landlords can result in easier filled vacancies as well.

 

If you ever have any questions, you can always ask us here at SeattleRentals on our Facebook Page, through Twitter or in the comment section below.