Springtime is the prime season for attracting new renters and filling vacant units to get your community at maximum capacity. Here are three things every property management team can do now to ensure a smooth rental application process during this busy time of year.
#1 – Advertise to all
Fair Housing laws apply not only to existing renters, but also to potential renters. As a result, advertising for your community should make clear by words and pictures, if used, that all members of the community are welcome. Additionally, online advertising has become more prevalent, and some online platforms allow you to specify the type of audience that will see your ad. For example, Facebook allows you to target ads to those in a specific demographic, like consumers in a specific age range, consumers of a certain gender, and consumers with a particular marital status. Advertising for housing targeted in this way may run afoul of Fair Housing laws and should be avoided.
#2 – Obtain authorization to run credit checks and criminal background checks
Your property management team likely runs a credit check and criminal background check as a routine part of its application process. However, you cannot do so without the express written consent of the applicant. As a result, you should review the language in your rental application to ensure it contains an authorization to run such checks and requires the applicant’s signature to signal approval of the authorization.
#3 – Apply application fees and deposits properly
Jurisdictions vary regarding the charges that are permitted at the rental application stage. For example, some jurisdictions allow a landlord to charge an applicant both a nonrefundable application fee and a refundable application deposit, whereas other jurisdictions don’t allow an application fee to be charged at all. Additionally, some jurisdictions place a cap on the maximum amount that can be charged. Laws are constantly changing, so your team should review your jurisdiction’s requirements and restrictions with regard to application charges yearly.
If your property management team needs a review of its application process, procedures, and documentation, then reach out to an attorney to avoid any application pitfalls. Our team can review your advertising materials and your rental application to ensure they comply with federal, state, and local laws, and we can recommend changes where necessary.
If you have any questions about this topic, please contact Crystal Kramer at
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Crystal Kramer’s practice is focused on the representation of landlords and property managers of residential and commercial real estate in Virginia. This representation includes Fair Housing disputes and all litigation associated with lease disputes, including breach of lease, unlawful detainer actions, and tenant’s assertion actions.
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