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Landlords Beware of Discrimination Policies

Illustration about discrimination in property management
October 5, 2020 Washington DC

Landlords…beware! As a landlord, you must be aware of discrimination policies and laws in your area. Discrimination policies can cover everything from pets to senior citizens, children, deposits, amenities, sexualities, etc. We’ve outlined a few examples below, but if you’re ever in doubt reach, you can reach out to the Fair Housing Commission at their Housing Counseling Hotline (916-444-0178). Better to be safe than sorry!

Discrimination Laws in DC

In the District of Columbia, housing providers can not discriminate on the actual or perceived basis of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex (including pregnancy)
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Marital Status
  • Personal Appearance
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity or Expression
  • Familial Status
  • Family Responsibilities
  • Matriculation
  • Political Affiliation
  • Disability
  • Source of Income
  • Victim of an Intra-Family Offense
  • Place of Residence or Business


Reasons to legally refuse a tenant

  • Credit Reports: As a landlord, you can deny a tenant because of a bad credit score. If you do, you must let the tenant know that the reason you have refused them is due to a low credit score and provide them with the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting agency that provided that information.
  • Evictions: If a potential renter has an eviction on their record, you can legally refuse them as a tenant. That being said, sometimes, the tenant is not directly responsible for the eviction, so you can be open to hearing them out.
  • Criminal Record
  • Unsatisfactory references from landlords, employers, and or personal references: Sometimes landlords refuse potential tenants based on reports of gambling, drug dealing, unusual damage to the property, failure to give proper notice when vacating, etc. You are legally entitled to refuse a potential renter based on these references.
  • Frequent Moves: You can deny potential renters if you decide what constitutes frequent moves and apply those exact same criteria to every applicant.
  • Too short a time on the job: Same as the Frequent Moves above.
  • No verifiable source of income
  • Drug Users: This is only valid for current drug users. If a potential renter was or is in a current drug treatment program and no longer uses drugs, the Federal Government protects them as handicapped under the Fair Housing Act.
  • Pets
  • History of late rental payments
  • Insufficient income: Insufficient income must be determined reasonably and applied equally to all applicants. For example, you could deny applicants if the rent exceeds 35% of their gross monthly income. Also, make sure that you don’t ask that unmarried people meet different income requirements than married people!

For a complete list of reasons why you can or can not deny tenants, please contact us at Gordon James Realty or get in touch with an attorney familiar with the Landlord-Tenant Laws. The list above is not intended to be legal advice, and laws change all the time! It’s important as a landlord to keep informed on discrimination policies, how they affect you, your advertising, your tenants, and your business! Happy renting!!



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