Questions Your Landlord Can’t Ask You

It’s reasonable for a landlord to conduct interviews to find out if rental applicants are as squeaky clean as they are on paper. Most landlord questions you get asked will be perfectly innocent. But did you know in fact there are quite a few illegal landlord questions they can’t ask you?

While landlord harassment is rare, if you’re being asked to provide information that’s too personal or confidential, then they could be in danger of violating your tenant rights.

Have a read of the following landlord questions and be sure to check out your renters rights if you’re unsure about any information you’re being asked for.

1. Where were you born?

They may be just trying to make conversation. But if a landlord asks you where you were born, or where your parents were born, they could be digging for information. If they discriminate against you based on your national origin, race or color, you can file a complaint under the Fair Housing Act.

2. Do you have children?

The Fair Housing Act also protects against discrimination against familial status. A landlord who asks if you have children and their ages might be trying to restrict applicants to childless couples and singles. However, it’s illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to people with children.

Do you have a child?

3. Have you ever been arrested?

During an interview a landlord may ask all kinds of questions to determine your character. If they run a background check it will reveal any convictions, they may try and dig deeper, but they’re not entitled to arrest records, and they can’t ask if you’ve been arrested.

4. Do you need to know about the nearest church/temple/mosque?

While this question might seem more about providing helpful information, it’s a loaded one. Landlords should steer clear of any line of questioning that is related to religion. Under the Fair Housing Act discrimination against any religion is illegal.

5. Are you engaged or married?

Relationship status falls under the category of familial status so asking a couple, of any age or gender, if they’re engaged or married is a no-no. Some states specifically prohibit landlord questions of this nature. Married or unmarried, both people should be screened to see if they qualify not rejected because of their relationship status.

Are you married or engaged?

6. How old are you?

Even if a rental application has a date of birth section, you’re not obliged to fill this in. Your age shouldn’t be a factor that a landlord takes into account to rent a property, and to do so is discriminatory. Exceptions to this rule apply to housing for retirement or senior communities where applicants must be of a certain age.

7. Can I get your bank balance?

A landlord can ask for any reasonable information to prove that you can pay the rent. For instance, they’re well within their rights to ask for permission to pull your credit report, but your bank statement is another matter. While they might ask for it, you don’t have to give it to them since it’s confidential information. As an alternative you might want to consider a letter from your employer confirming your salary.

8. Do you have a disability?

Although a landlord might seem to be asking out of genuine concern, they may also use it as a reason not to rent to you. Under the Fair Housing Act, a person with a disability has the same rights as an able-bodied person. Even if a landlord is worried about the apartment not being accessible it’s not something that can be brought into question.

9. Do you have a service animal?

If you require the assistance of a service animal you will need to supply this documentation. So landlords shouldn’t need to ask this question. Even if there is a pet policy this doesn’t apply to service animals.

The laws around emotional support animals are more vague, but if you have a ESA letter from a licensed therapist, under Federal law you can’t be refused application. Landlords are also not allowed to charge extra ‘pet rent’.

As you can see, landlords need to be practiced in screening prospective tenants to avoid topics that could land them in hot water. If your application is successful, congratulations. But it’s also a good idea to make sure you know your tenant legal rights now you’ve scored a new apartment.

Author’s Bio

Angela Pearse is a blogger for Zumper who frequently combines travel with freelance writing. She’s passionate about Art Deco hotels, historical novels, Netflix, hiking and healthy living.

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