It is always tempting to limit your risks as a DC property owner—perceived or otherwise. You may try to do this by picking and choosing who can occupy your DC rental properties or ‘pass’ your ‘screening criteria,’ when in reality, you might secretly be operating off of an unaddressed bias.
- For example, you may want to choose to only allow women to rent your properties for various reasons.
- You may think women take better care of their homes, for example.
- It can seem logical to select people who will take your property seriously and care for it.
- However, what we want you to know as a DC property management professional is this: You cannot discriminate.
Today, we’re going to be taking a look at some investing pitfalls DC property owners would do best to avoid if they want to protect their Washington, DC rentals.
Note: This blog post does not act as a substitute for legal counsel. When in doubt, consult with your trusted attorney or the DC property management experts at Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA for real-time assistance!
The Big Question: Can You Specify ‘Women Only?’
If you are considering renting out your property, you may try to specify that certain portions of the DC rental market need not apply. You may know it is not legal to discriminate. However, even statements that make it seem like you are specifying something innocuous such as ‘Female renters wanted!’ or ‘No men, thanks’ are not legal.
For example, if you state your home is ‘Perfect for a single woman,’ that implies you just want women to apply—and only single women. This statement is a type of gender discrimination—not to mention it also brushes up against discrimination based on familial status—and it can cost you significantly.
Any form of bias can land you in hot water with the Fair Housing Act (FHA)—which is not somewhere you want to be as a D.C. property owner.
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The Fair Housing Act
Most of the rules that govern discrimination when it comes to rental property stem from the Fair Housing Act. Specifically, this legislation makes it illegal for you to discriminate when renting any type of housing based on factors such as race, national origin, religion, sex, color, familial status, or disability.
Any form of discrimination puts you, your Washington DC rentals, and your long-term financial freedom at risk. As the experts in DC property management, we urge you: Do not do this.
- This act means you cannot refuse to rent the property based on these protected factors or to negotiate for housing.
- You cannot make housing unavailable to an applicant who meets your qualifications but happens to be a different religion from your own.
- You cannot set different terms, conditions, or privileges to those who fit your gender requirements.
- You cannot impose different prices or charges for men and women.
These are all examples of bias that can topple your investment portfolio.
Advertising Rules and Avoiding Discrimination
What makes it hard for many property owners is to watch phrasing and implied statements with any type of advertising they are doing for their property. That includes advertising online, in print, or even by word of mouth.
- Don’t make any statements about the resident you are hoping to rent to when advertising your property.
- Instead, just describe the features of the property and other facts.
- Avoid statements such as ‘single adults,’ ‘women will love the layout,’ or ‘excellent for Christians.’
Avoiding this kind of phrasing ensures you do not make assumptions about those who may be applying for your property.
Minimize Risks When Describing the Neighborhood, Too
DC is a melting pot—so be sure to consider this when it comes to advertising beyond your Washington DC rentals.
- You also need to keep descriptions of the community, neighborhood, and the surrounding region in check.
- Again, just talk about the local amenities and features like your community’s pool or fitness center.
- Skip any notations of discriminatory concerns: don’t say the community is ‘A strong Catholic area’ or that the region has a ‘Notable Latinx presence.’ Any of these statements can lead to discriminatory claims.
Don’t Say No!
It is very important to ensure your advertising for your property is clear and open to anyone. You should never say ‘No’ in your ads when it comes to people. This doesn’t mean you can’t work with a DC property management partner to develop screening criteria, it just means you need to consider the restrictions handed down by the FHA.
- Don’t say ‘no children’ or ‘no transgender people,’ for example.
- This stipulation is limiting—and can be considered discriminatory.
What Happens If You Make Claims Like This?
- If you make claims like this, you could violate the Fair Housing Act or the Fair Housing Act Amendments Act.
- In all situations, that can lead to the applicant filing a claim against you.
- This claim can lead to fines and other punishments.
It also can create a bad reputation for you, as a property owner, within the D.C. rental market—and that can quickly kill your long-term returns.
How Can You Avoid These Risks?
Working with professional DC property management for your Washington DC rentals can help you avoid these risks. Skilled DC property managers like the Rent Estate™ Advisors at Renters Warehouse are well-versed in these rules and laws; they can help you avoid common mistakes. Even if you think that female-only rental properties would be the easiest for you to manage, it can put you at risk for fines and claims against your investment business.
Our team at Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA has the support you need to grow your portfolio ethically and sustainably! How you rent your DC rental properties is just one element of an entire growth-focused approach to property ownership. You can learn more about how to grow your portfolio like a professional when you download our free Guide to Real Estate Investing: Grow Your Portfolio!