Property Management Blog

What Do Columbus Property Managers Need to Know About Fair Housing

Mitch Deminski - Friday, March 25, 2022

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Fair housing laws are not only strict; they’re also always changing. 

Most of the landlords and rental property owners we work with would never intentionally discriminate against a tenant or a prospective tenant. However, it’s easy to make an unintentional mistake that can get you into expensive legal trouble. Fair housing extends not only to the seven federally protected classes, but also to issues such as source of income, service and companion animals, and disparate impact when it comes to using criminal history to evaluate an application. 

There's a lot to unpack, and at Solutions for Real Estate, we’re fortunate to work with some of the best legal experts in the area. Your Columbus property management team includes legal and civil rights expertise, so you can be sure your investment property is protected and your leasing and management practices are in compliance with all federal, state, and local fair housing laws. 

Here’s what you need to know when you’re renting out a Columbus property.

Fair Housing Education and Enforcement

All of the property managers at Real Estate Solutions have their real estate license. Our team is fully trained on civil rights and we have ongoing education when it comes to fair housing and anti-discrimination law. This includes a lot of conferences, classes, seminars, and materials. We are unwilling to make fair housing mistakes, and work very hard to stay ahead of the latest laws and regulations. If you’re renting out a home in Columbus or managing properties for others, we recommend you do the same.

We go a few steps further. We reached out to the Director of Housing Enforcement and Mediation. We’ve partnered with him and his team to ensure our practices and our business are aligned with the mission and the spirit of fair housing laws. We have the leading civil rights expert in Ohio available to answer all our questions and consult about fair housing compliance. 

Fair Housing and the Leasing Process 

If you’re going to run into fair housing trouble, it will most likely happen when you’re marketing your property and screening your tenants. You need to be aware of how broad the laws can reach. 

For example, if you mention in your advertising that your property “wouldn’t be good for children,” you could be accused of discriminating against families. That’s illegal. If your marketing materials say that your rental home is close to a particular house of worship, members of different faiths may feel they’re at a disadvantage when they see or apply for your home. You have to be careful with how you word your listings and the questions you ask when you’re talking to prospective tenants. Don’t ask how many kids they have. Don’t ask which country they’re from or what race they are. 

Screening needs to be consistent and well-documented. We recommend putting together a written document that reflects your qualifying criteria so tenants will know what you’re looking for before they apply. Use that criteria on every application.

Service and Companion Animals

a service dogAn area of fair housing that’s really taking off is service animals and companion animals. They are two distinct classes of support animals, but neither of them are considered pets. If a tenant has a service animal, you cannot charge pet rent or a pet deposit. You cannot deny someone with an emotional support animal if your property doesn’t allow pets. You need to know the difference between pets, service animals, and companion animals otherwise you might get in trouble asking the wrong questions or taking the wrong course of action. 

If you’d like some help understanding fair housing laws and how they impact your Columbus rental property, please contact us at Solutions for Real Estate. We’d be happy to share what we know.