Landlords have specific responsibilities to meet when they offer a property for residential habitation. Ensuring that you meet these requirements can minimize the chance that you will face legal action brought by a tenant.
Not only do you need to be familiar with the local laws, you also need to know federal and state ones. There are several points that can lead to serious problems if they aren’t followed.
No discrimination allowed
Landlords can’t discriminate against tenants for any protected reason. Many of these are covered by the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Housing Amendment Acts. Protected statuses include:
- Disability or impairment
- Color or race
- National origin
- Family status, including having children or being pregnant
- Sex or gender
The law forbids discrimination at every step of the rental process. It isn’t allowed when vetting out applications or determining whether to terminate a lease. Standardized rental contracts are necessary since it is illegal to change terms based on a protected status.
Special consideration for New York landlords
New York added another protected status to the list back in 2017. However, it has been only loosely enforced until recently. Landlords can’t discriminate against individuals based on their income type as long as the income is gained legally.
While this might seem like an obvious protection, some landlords have a slight issue. The law means that they must not reject applicants solely because they receive Section 8 housing vouchers. Many landlords prefer not to accept these because of the specifics of the program, but you can’t outright reject someone based on this status.
The primary issue for many landlords is that they might have trouble collecting rent if the renter is ever dropped from the program. Landlords usually aren’t notified of the status change in a timely manner, so they don’t have time to brace for the impact.
Landlords must ensure that properties comply with the safety and health requirements of Section 8. One example is that each window must have a screen that is in good shape. This small requirement can turn costly if screens are being destroyed but you aren’t able to pinpoint the cause of the problem.
It is possible to protect your interests in these cases. First, only rent to applicants whom you have thoroughly screened. This can include background and reference checks. You can also have a detailed lease that outlines exactly what each party is responsible for. Finally, ensure you understand the Section 8 program and how it impacts your position as a landlord.