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Leasing 101: A Comprehensive Guide for Property Investors

Landlord and Tenant Discussing Lease Agreement Acquiring and owning single-family rental properties can be an exciting and rewarding investment. Unlike other types of investments, there are many things you need to know to successfully go from a property owner to a landlord. Suppose you are a Hanover County rental property owner getting ready to lease for the first time. In that case, it is essential to fully understand the basics of leasing strategies and, even more importantly, the laws that now apply to you and your renter. We’ve generated a comprehensive guide to get you started on leasing your first property. Following these simple guidelines can make your first experience a positive one.

Renter Screening Process

One of the first and essential phases in leasing your rental property is locating the ideal renter. And the best method for achieving this is to have a good tenant screening process for each applicant. You’ll have to obtain information from your prospective renter to help you decide whether they are the ones you’re seeking for. At a minimum, suggest that they fill out an application that provides all intended home occupants’ names and birth dates (incorporating those under 18), five years of employment history, and at least three past rental references. You should also obtain Social Security numbers for all adult renters and perform a background check on them all. After that, call and verify the information on their application. Preferably, communicate with any previous landlords and get details on their renting history. It may require some time, but the more research you get before you sign that lease, the less likely you will be disappointed in the future.

Avoiding Discrimination

As you advertise to and screen renters, it’s necessary to prevent discriminating against potential renters, even if it’s accidental. Numerous federal laws make it prohibited to discriminate against a renter based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, handicap, and familial status. These laws include:

  • Fair Housing Act (FHA): The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The FHA governs all elements of the rental process, including advertising, tenant selection, and terms and conditions of tenancy.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Also covered by FHA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Landlords who own multi-unit buildings of 4 units or more are needed to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, like allocating accessible parking spaces or adding grab bars in bathrooms.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that forbids discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older. Although the ADEA is principally meant to protect employees, it also bans discrimination in housing based on age.
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is a federal law prohibiting discrimination in credit transactions, including rental transactions. Under the ECOA, landlords may not discriminate against individuals based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, age, or because they receive public assistance.

Apart from federal law, it’s advisable to research state and local law. There may be other protected classes depending on local regulations.

As you create your rental ads, avoid using language that might qualify as discrimination, such as saying that you will not rent to seniors or people with children or that you won’t rent to those who live on government assistance. After that, as you receive applications and screen renters, fairly assess your applicants based on the information they provide and not on other criteria. By maintaining professionalism and utilizing an unbiased screening system, you can prevent discriminating against any potential renters.

Understanding Reasonable Accommodations

Additionally, it is vital not to assume that someone with a disability is not always an excellent candidate for your rental property. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, are require Hanover County property managers to make “reasonable accommodations” for their renters if requested. By definition, a reasonable accommodation is “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” If your prospective renter otherwise meets the criteria for renting your property, accommodation should not be a reason to decline them. The accommodation a renter requests would be paid for and installed by the renter, with the agreement that they will leave the property to its original condition upon move-out.

Other accommodations include permitting service and emotional support animals in the rental property, even if you have a clear policy banning pets. Service and emotional support animals are excluded from a rental pet policy. You may not pay additional rent or fees should a renter keep a service animal on the property.

Learning all the laws and best practices for leasing rental properties might be hard. Why not outsource this vital responsibility to a professional property manager? At Real Property Management Richmond Metro, we give clear and anti-discriminatory screening and leasing services to help our rental property owners locate the best possible renters. Contact us today or call us at 804-823-8882 to learn more.


Originally published on June 4, 2021

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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