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Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #1 
My basic screening process involves having an open house for 4 hours. People come, see the apartment, fill out and application including a application fee check.

After the open house, I go through the applications and can eliminate some based on income, voluntary disclosure of convictions, basic calls to previous/current employment and landlords, etc. I am usually left with a handful (more than one) of applicants which seem good on paper.

Here is where my question comes in. How do I proceed to avoid discrimination?

I usually start with one that seems the "most promising" I cash their their application fee check and use the money to run a background/credit check. If it is clean I offer them the apartment (if not I run the check for my second choice, and etc.). If they accept and sign a lease, I return the application fee checks of the other potential applicants and let them know the apartment was taken. I have been successful with this approach. My unit is in Hawaii

In choosing the "best" initial application to proceed with, I use my sixth sense from meeting them face to face. I also may have a single older professional woman vs. a family of 5 including 3 small, loud, children. However, landlords are not allowed to discriminate against family status. But in this case I am likely to run credit on the single women and if it comes back clean, offer her the apartment. If not I can run credit on the family or other applicant (my next choice).

I came across this during a resent search...

"Screen all applicants in the exact same manner so you are not accused of discrimination."

"Landlords can use business or financial criteria such as credit scores, income minimums, or references indicating irresponsibility as a reason to reject an application."

"Declining to Rent to Someone With Bad Credit... First you must mail an "Adverse Action" letter explaining that you have declined their application because of their credit report. You must include the exact reasons for your rejection. You are also required to provide them with the name, address and phone number of the agency you used to run the credit report and inform them of their right to request a free copy of their credit report from the agency within 60 days."

My question: Is choosing the "best potential" tenant and running a background check on them setting me up for discrimination issues? And even if I ran both checks, and they both come back clean, how does a landlord justify his decision to offer the apartment to one applicant with clean credit vs. another with clean credit? Well, how does he do it legally?

Thanks in advance. If you reply with more than just an opinion, any sources would be great to include.

Posts: 314
Reply with quote  #2 
you can also look at protecting your investment...wear & tear, etc

Posts: 22
Reply with quote  #3 
In addition to a credit and criminal background check, there are other factors to include in your decision that would not violate Fair Housing. References, evictions, pets, smoking habits, and frequency of moves are also factors that can contribute to the decision to accept or reject an application.

Sarnen Steinbarth
Founder / CEO

100% Free Landlord Software | Rental Marketing | Online Applications | Tenant Screening | Rent Collection


Posts: 3,809
Reply with quote  #4 
Also include:
- rental history - Does he move frequently or every year?  Or does he stay long term?  No landlord wants quick turnover.

- payment history  - Was he frequently late?  Or did he pay former landlords on time?

- landlord references - Lease violations, damages, gave proper notice to vacate, frequency of unreasonable repair requests?  No one needs a demanding, unreasonable tenant.

- employment history - Does he stay employed?  How long has be been on the job?  Does he have 3 x the rent in income?

- minor law infractions - Are there violations that repeat over & over?  Minor disturbances where repeated police calls would disturb neighbors?  If many traffic violations (irresponsible), are they close to losing their driver's license -and the ability to get to work?  Have they lost their license before for this?  This has happened to several tenants who then can't afford their rentals!  Background checks don't always look for misdemeanors.  Make sure your company does.

- civil court records - If civil judgments are present, they could come back and garnish 25% of the tenant's wages!  Could he still afford your place if that happens?

- social media - Look for frequent parties, drug references, unlisted pets, & other issues.  I've seen tenant showing drugs on their media pages, and damaging the place they live now!

- impressions - Are they neat & clean?  Polite?  Demanding?  If you can, drive by their current house.  How does it look?  Your place will look like that soon.

Posts: 178
Reply with quote  #5 
Have a set criteria BEFORE you have an open house.  Share the criteria with potential applicants.

Screen the first one, and in order of which they apply.

As soon as one passes, do not screen any others.  Give any application fees back after you have a tenant.


Landlording for maximum profitability and Financial Independence


Posts: 9
Reply with quote  #6 
There are other factors to check clean vs clean screening. You can go with factors like less number of moves, non drink and smoking habits, more professional etc. 

Marketing Professional
Tenant Screening Services at Helloverify.

Hello Verify an online screening system that does a thorough employee background screening. Their team does a comprehensive research from verified sources. They check the credentials of the individual by cross referring to the police verification India documents. They then give you credible information based on which you can then make an informed decision.

Posts: 10
Reply with quote  #7 
I disagree w/ the few answers I have read to your post. First off, I think it is unethical to charge a person an application fee in general. You are screening yourself and saving paying a commission- how greedy can you be? Sounds to me like you cash as many checks as possible- which is unethical. I worked for the HRC as head mediator and I heard many housing discrimination cases- your hypothetical is discriminating on 2 federally protected classes & arguably the single woman could fall into family discrimination for not being married.. I do not see why her gender which is also a federally protected class was ever even brought up. I think your entire approach is wrong- I set up my potential tenants close together in time frame but not an open house- that is for sales. Being a landlord so long and about to move out of state where i want to rent for 3 years or more to find land there i want and build on it- your stupid application fee would make me not even show up. I have the applications in a neat corner near the door, but I do not charge to apply. I do not push people to apply either. Usually the person can tell if you vibe with them or do not like them. I usually get 90 interested people & narrow it easily down to 10 on things like pets, money whatever. Then it all becomes about money and aggravation- is this the type of person who will scream discrimination bc you did not have his/ her dishwasher fixed on Sat night? Then that is probably a bad fit. IN Mass you cant charge an application fee which I 100% agree with- I do think if you choose your top choice- it should be OK to charge them a fee for running criminal and such background check as long as u refund it if they were truthful.. if they lied then they do not deserve it back. What does any landlord want??? SOmeone who will not wreck the place, pays on time, can afford it, has stable income- & who makes the most money? I do not know Hawaii laws but landlord tenant is heavily regulated by state except the federally protected classes. Mass does have laws about how many people can live in a place based on amount of bedrooms. My guess would be you feeling like 5 people is too much for a 3 bedroom is fine- you expect more damages when people pack in and its just unsanitary and that does not seem discriminatory to me. But just base it on the money- you can't claim to be indigent is you make 30k a year in Mass but you can if you have 2 dependents/ kids- that does factor in a lot to how much money a person has. Base it on money per capita (heads in the house)- basing it on money is what landlords need to do

Posts: 507
Reply with quote  #8 
Paragraphs dude, seriously. That's basic middle school writing skills. 

It's not unethical to charge an application fee, it covers your actual cost to make sure people actually qualify for your rental. If landlords didn't do that, everyone would claim perfect credit and amazing income, then landlords would be stuck with trashed units they never got paid for. If it is illegal anywhere (this is the first I've ever heard of that), then that is a problem in that state (which makes it less easy to do business as a landlord, which means fewer do it, which means there are fewer rentals, which means the prices of those units goes up, which means people complain how expensive it is, which means government programs subsidize more rent, which is funded by taxes, which are paid by the constituents who put the politicians in office that over-regulated rentals in the first place, so they chose that problem). That doesn't mean anyone else should follow suit. 

It would be bad to prohibit 5 people in a 3-bedroom if that occupancy is allowed by the state. You seem awfully paranoid about discrimination, but that alone could be viewed as discrimination based on family status. 

You can't just wing it and 'see who you mesh well with', that inviting disaster. 


Posts: 10
Reply with quote  #9 
You can address me as Doctor since I have earned the title. 

I was a mediator for the Human Rights Commission & I know a lot about discrimination.

If you knew anything AT ALL you would know landlord tenant law is heavily regulated by the state. In Massachusetts, application fees are illegal. 

I have been a landlord since I was 22 years old accumulating 4 houses in Boston with a net worth far past anything you will see in your life. I get 3400- 4000 per house.. so I can swing the $50 to screen people. Just bc you made poor real estate choices and want to swindle everyone you can for an application fee- does not make it ethical. I got an A in Ethics in law school. What grade did you get in Ethics in law school? I don't think your post said.

I am middle school? You wish you could sniff my talents. You are a slumlord. I work full time and don't rip people off.. It is very expensive to live in Boston but I am 35% below market value bc I never raise rents so I keep tenants a long time. Maybe if you were not so greedy you would too. 

READ A BOOK & learn something instead of ripping everyone off & watch who you talk to bc I travel all over and I bet  you would not ever say boo to my face you slumlord rip off who needs to beat and swindle people to obtain their hard earned money to pad your wallet. If you turn over tenants so fast join a site where you have unlimited access. Your fee is unethical. I hope I represent someone who is suing you one day. And if you knew anything about umm the law- there is a very strong reason for not having too many people in too small a place- but NO you do not know a thing nor do you probably know anything about city life. Read a book- a law book- educate yourself and don't just rip people off. WOW it is so expensive to run a credit check- you must be real desperate.. you are PATHETIC swindling as many people as you can for whatever inflated crap you charge them for applying. Let me guess in reality do you provide them that paperwork they paid for? My guess is NO WAY bc you don't run their credit.... you just cash the checks. If that is what you need to do to make money, you are as ethical as you  are educated. FPOS


Posts: 507
Reply with quote  #10 
Dude, chill. This is a forum. We have no idea who you are (and we don't care), you have no idea who we are (and you don't care). You don't need to start making personal attacks or bragging about how great you are. No one cares. We ask questions, we help each other out, that's it. I won't even count how many aggressively incorrect assumptions you made about me just to throw an insult, which is about as unprofessional as I've ever seen on here.

Sorry to ruffle your feathers, your highness. 

Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #11 
I have been watching this post ever since I have asked the original question. I appreciate everyone that has posted in the spirit of helping with that original question. I know this is not a perfect screening process but some of the advice I have gotten will certainly make it better. Some of the posters have 300+ or even 3000+ posts on this forum and I really appreciate you taking the time to help. At this time, I have great tenants and my plan is to keep them as long as I can  ;-)  After that I will continue to do my best to screen fairly to get the best tenants for my needs. Thanks again.
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