All Dallas rental property management companies must understand Fair Housing Laws, or sooner or later they’ll stumble unknowingly into a violation that could bring heavy fines or even an appearance in court. The Federal Fair Housing Act was established in 1968 and has had only a couple of amendments over the decades. It’s intended to protect a specific list of citizens from discrimination when trying to obtain housing or funding for housing because of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, familial status, or disability.
“Like most other states, Texas has its own Fair Housing Act that reinforces federal protections. Complaints about discrimination or suspected discrimination can be made not only to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but also to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.” – from WTOP.com
As a Dallas property manager, it’s important that you are also up to date on these laws and what they mean for you as the owner of a rental home. You have to be constantly vigilant to avoid discrimination when screening tenants and marketing your property to keep in compliance with these laws.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
One of the groups protected by Fair Housing laws is people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has detailed what it means to provide reasonable accommodations to these tenants.
What Does “Disability” Mean According to the Law?
A disability according to the Fair Housing laws is a mental or physical condition that substantially limits that person’s ability to participate in major life activities that are important to daily life. In Dallas rental property management, you have to be careful when first interacting with potential tenants because a person’s disability is not always immediately recognizable and a property manager may do or say something that does not comply with Fair Housing laws. Conditions like heart disease or epilepsy, for example, are not obvious when meeting someone.
Reasonable Accommodations for Someone with a Disability
Dallas property management services require that you make reasonable accommodations for a tenant with a disability. Requests that are unreasonable would be those that put undue hardship on the landlord. “Reasonable” requests include changes to policies surrounding parking, rent collection procedures, or pet policies when there is a service animal. These accommodations should not be offered outright, however, because even if the offer is made from caring consideration, the assumption of the need for an accommodation may be viewed as discriminatory.
Marketing Compliance in Dallas Rental Property Management
When trying to tailor an advertisement to a particular group of people, you may inadvertently be excluding another group. For example, when advertising that your property is perfect for senior citizens, it can appear that you are discriminating against families. You also cannot tell a prospective tenant that a property is unavailable simply because you do not want to rent it to him or her. Not only does this show signs of incompetence, it is also grounds for a real estate agent to lose their license. At the very least, the denied tenant has grounds to file a complaint with the real estate licensing board.
It’s not easy to even approach marketing when potential discrimination is around every corner of property management. At SPM Dallas, we can guide you through effective and non-discriminatory marketing strategies so you avoid any pitfalls.
Tenant Selection Compliance
When you provide a rental application to a potential tenant, you need to know what it can and cannot contain. Applications can cover information about an individual’s background, including financial history, criminal records, and sex offender charges. Questions that help you in understanding the applicant’s financial reliability like employment and credit checks are also acceptable. You can even ask for information about why the applicant is moving and how many people will live in the residence. But questions surrounding race or disabilities are not appropriate and can quickly cross legal bounds and violate Fair Housing laws.
Service Animal Compliance
Like marketing and tenant selection, be careful with the language regarding your property policies that may be non-compliant. Here’s an example: A landlord does not allow pets in a rental unit, and the application clearly marked the rule. While filling out the application, a potential tenant asks if there are exceptions to this policy. The landlord replies, “no.” In less than a minute, this landlord may have innocently stumbled into non-compliance. By giving a sweeping “no” to all animals, this statement includes services animals. Service animals are exceptions to pet policies and individuals with disabilities cannot be denied housing because of their service animal in Dallas rental property management.
Is it okay to have no-pet policies on rental properties? Yes! However, since service animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act, you need to understand the different facets of the law as it relates to animal considerations. You cannot discriminate based on the size or breed of the dog. Service animals are also not considered pets. Be sure you don’t discriminate or charge a fee just because they walk around on four legs.
Fair Housing Rules and LGBTQ
Currently, the state of Texas doesn’t have a specific ruling for LGBTQ housing issues. However, Federal Law explains,
“The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. A person who identifies as LGBTQ who has experienced (or is about to experience) discrimination under any of these bases may file a complaint with HUD. HUD is committed to investigating violations of the Fair Housing Act against all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” – from HUD.gov
Because laws and rules are ever-changing, and over 20 states in the U.S. have passed state and local laws regarding people who identify as LGBTQ, it’s important that as a Dallas property manager you keep up-to-date on the current regulations or trust your Dallas rental property management company to do so.
A Note to Tenants
If you feel you have been discriminated against for any reason, the Texas Tenants’ Union is a nonprofit tenants’ rights organization located in Dallas that empowers tenants through education. They strive to protect tenants’ rights, “preserve their homes, improve their living conditions and enhance the quality of life in their communities.” If you live in the Dallas area, reaching out to the Texas Tenants’ Union may give you the counsel and assistance you need.
Keep it Professional
At SPM Dallas, we know that homeowners can develop a strong emotional bond to their home. It could be the place they brought home their firstborn, or memories of blood, sweat and tears poured into their first renovations. Whatever the attachment is, it is important to remember that this attachment can be a potential for disaster when complying with the Fair Housing Act. Dallas property managers must become emotionally detached when they decide to rent out their home for a profit. It must be seen as a business transaction. If a property manager shows any sign of discrimination towards a potential renter because of a homeowner’s attachment, it could mean serious trouble.
How Specialized Property Management Dallas Can Help You
Some applications of the Fair Housing laws are simple and straightforward. You can’t reject a tenant application simply on the grounds that someone has a blind child, and they want you to put up warning signs to protect the child. But if you take a look at the law, there are many clauses or very detailed requirements that are not easy to recognize during everyday interactions with people. Many DFW property management companies unknowingly break the law, and it winds up costing them hefty penalties and fines. When you work with Specialized Property Management Dallas, our in-house legal counsel and compliance team will work hard to stay current on the wide range of continually shifting applicable regulations to ensure you are protected, including:
- State property code laws
- Local city ordinances
- Fair Housing Act & ADA
- Department of Real Estate
- Tenant screening regulations
- Real estate contract law on residential leases
- Trust and escrow laws on security deposits and monthly rental payments
- Tenant and landlord maintenance laws
- Collection and eviction laws
- Property inspection regulations
We are committed to providing professional Dallas rental property management so you can rest easy at night knowing you’re in compliance.
“We moved our two rental properties over from another real estate agency and found the whole experience easy and fluid. SPM dealt with issues and repairs in a sensible manner; rather than caulk up a problem and look for temporary fixes, they went to the core of the issue and identified permanent solutions which were more cost effective in the long run. I also found the costs to be about 70% of the previous agent – possibly through better sourced contractors. When it came to selling the properties Sylvia Cantu was brilliant. She was available every single time we called, including on weekends, early in the morning (we live in a different time zone). I only wish we have found SPM earlier.” –5 star Facebook review from Shelley Winkel
Take advantage of our Dallas property management services and you’ll save both time and money. Call 214-233-7572 to put us to work for you today!