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What Is Legal When It Comes to Screening Prospective Tenants?


Vacancies are a landlord’s worst nightmare, so why is housing so hard to find in Washington, D.C.?  Prospective tenants must demonstrate to the landlord that they will consistently be able to make rent payments; this usually means showing proof of employment and income.  Sure, every landlord forms a first impression about how much or how little trouble a tenant will cause if they move in.  The family with the small children and the big dog will cause more wear and tear to their unit than the retired lady who lives alone with no pets.  Everyone deserves a place to live, though, even people who are noisy enough to annoy their neighbors or messy enough that the walls of their apartment will probably need a new paint job after they move out.  New Washington, D.C. laws provide more robust protections against housing discrimination, but some tenants claim that landlords have denied their housing applications for prohibited reasons.  Late rent payments from tenants are annoying, but housing discrimination lawsuits are worse, both in terms of workload and expense.  To ensure that your rental properties are in compliance with current fair housing laws, contact a Washington, D.C. real estate lawyer.

Two Northwest D.C. Apartment Complexes Face Housing Discrimination Lawsuit

The Equal Rights Center has filed a lawsuit against the property management company Air Communities, alleging that two apartment complexes it manages in Northwest D.C. have illegally discriminated against applicants for housing.  The two apartment complexes mentioned in the lawsuit are Latrobe Gardens and Vaughn Place.  The lawsuit alleges that the apartment complexes discriminated against applicants based on source of income, meaning that it denied their applications because they have housing vouchers.  Source of income is a protected class, according to the fair housing laws of Washington, D.C.

Landlords have the right to run background checks on prospective tenants.  If the tenants do not have housing vouchers, the landlords can set minimum income levels in their eligibility requirements; many landlords require applicants to have an income that is at least three times the rent payment.  The landlords cannot discriminate based on whether that income comes from employment, public benefits such as Social Security, or other sources such as investment income or payments from a trust.

According to D.C. law, eviction records are sealed after three years.  Therefore, a landlord cannot hold it against a prospective tenant if the tenant was evicted from a rental unit more than three years ago.  Likewise, a landlord cannot deny a prospective tenant’s application because of an arrest record or conviction record if the arrest or conviction happened more than seven years ago.  Landlords have the right to run credit checks, but they cannot discriminate against prospective tenants based on their credit score.  Having adequate income or a housing voucher is sufficient proof that you can pay the rent, even if you have a low credit score or no credit history.

Contact Tobin O’Connor Ewing About Staying on the Right Side of the Law as a Landlord

A Washington, D.C. real estate attorney can help your rental property comply with fair housing laws.  Contact Tobin, O’Connor, and Ewing in Washington, D.C. or call 202-362-5900.




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