If you are new to being a landlord or you are new to the interview process on the tenant side of a transaction, you should know what questions are off limits. Some of them may seem like no-brainers, such as race, sexual orientation, and nationality. But other questions relating to your kids and your birth date may seem innocent, and as such, can lure you into divulging information that you do not have to give. These are protected by the Fair Housing Act, and you should know them to make sure you aren’t being discriminated against for any reason.
Fair Housing Act Rights
Asking about your race is one of the no-no questions. Anything that can be construed as a racial question in the landlord-tenant interview process can be seen as discrimination. According to “10 Questions Landlords Can’t Ask,” even if it comes as a compliment, the landlord is still crossing a line. Similar to a question about race, the landlord is also not allowed to ask about your nationality. They aren’t allowed to ask about your parent’s nationality or what languages you speak. In both situations, the consequences can be quite severe as noted in the cited article.
Any sort of inquiry about your religion is also a question they are not allowed to ask. In some cases, the landlord may not mean anything by the question, but still, they are not allowed to ask about your religion because it can be seen as them favoring certain religions over others. This should have no effect what so ever on the application process.
Asking if you have any disabilities is not any of their business. Even if they are doing this to make sure you end up with a more accessible apartment, that is your business and not theirs. A disabled person has the same rights as an able-bodied individual, and each apartment or room should be offered as such. Here is a list of other questions that they are not allowed to ask:
- Questions related to your sexual orientation or gender
- Your marital status
- If you have kids
- The source of your income, such as welfare, food stamps, or other kinds of public assistance
- Your date of birth
Although landlords are allowed to know if you have been convicted of a crime, which will show up on a background check, they are not allowed to know about your arrest record. Innocent people can be arrested but then set free, and as a result, they are not allowed to ask about your arrest record.
As a rule of thumb for landlords, according to “3 Tenant Screening Questions That Are Off Limits,” landlords should adhere to a list of standards for qualification. This standard should be used for every tenant, or else this can be seen as discrimination.
Knowing what a landlord can and can’t ask you is important when you are in the market for a new place. You should also familiarize yourself with any laws that are specific to your state. If you do think you have been a victim of discrimination, you can file a complaint with HUD here.