As the summer season is starting to heat up and we are approaching our busiest season, I thought it might be helpful for landlord to hear some of the most common faux pas we see in rental listings that not only limit the potential tenant market but can actually result in a lawsuit.
The most common faux pas we see is when a landlord post a gender specific listing, meaning that the landlord has stated that the rental is for “Males Only” or “Perfect for a Single Female.”
The “Male Only” example we see often and is a straight-forward example of discrimination based on gender. And as we at Rent Hello and Off-Campus Housing 101 are partnered with many universities and discrimination is a serious matter, the word “Only” will always be edited out of a listing. Not only does this violate our Non-Discrimination Policy and it is actually illegal under local State or Province tenancy acts and can be cause for a discrimination lawsuit.
The “Perfect for Single Female” may not appear to be discrimination but actually can be considered to be discrimination not only based on gender but also on familial status. This we see quite often as well and thought it’s not as blatantly discriminatory and is occasionally allowed, depending on the property being rented, we always urge clients to be cautious when stating any form of preference.
As per the Tenancy Act for most states or provinces, the only situation where even a preference on gender can is allowed if the owner of the single family home lives alone and is renting out a room to a roommate or boarder. In this situation, the landlord and the potential tenant must be sharing living spaces such as kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms. Also, this preference is only allowed when there the landlord is a single person and no other tenants, boarders or residents reside in the single family home.
The specifics of this can be seen as outlines in the California Tenancy act:
However, the owner cannot make oral or written statements, or use notices or advertisements which indicate any preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, ancestry, familial status, source of income, or disability. further, the owner cannot discriminate on the basis of medical condition or age.
However, as this is an all around sticky grey area, we generally advise landlord against stating a preference in their listing and we highly recommend landlord put more emphasis on the tenant screening process and making sure to find the right tenant thru the screening process. We only ever allow preference to be stated when someone is rented out a room in a single-family home with shared living spaces.
Lastly, as the specific on what counts as discrimination and what preference a landlord is allowed to state can vary from state to state or province to province, it is wise to make sure you are up-to-date on your local Tenancy Act.
I have provide below the links to a few different Tenancy Acts.