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Leasing 101: A Comprehensive Guide for Property Investors

Landlord and Tenant Discussing Lease Agreement Acquiring and owning single-family rental properties can be an exciting and compensating investment. Unlike other types of investments, there are many things you need to be aware of to successfully go from a property owner to a landlord. Suppose you are a West Lebanon rental property owner getting ready to lease for the first time. In that scenario, it is critical to fully understand the basics of leasing strategies and, even more importantly, the laws that now apply to you and your renter. We’ve put up a comprehensive guide to get you started on leasing your first property. Applying these straightforward guidelines can make your first experience a good one.

Renter Screening Process

One of the first and most important tasks in leasing your rental property is choosing the ideal renter. And the technique for achieving this is to have a good tenant screening process for each applicant. You’ll have to gather information from your prospective renter to aid you in determining whether they are the ones you seek. At a minimum, they must fill out an application that includes all intended home occupants’ names and birth dates (along with those under 18), five years of employment history, and at least three past rental references. You should also gather Social Security numbers for all adult renters and undertake a background check on everyone. Then, call and verify the information on their application. If needed, message any previous landlords and get details on their renting history. It might take a few moments, but the more research you do before you sign that lease, the less likely you will have additional problems in the future.

Avoiding Discrimination

As you advertise to and screen renters, it’s a good idea to avoid discriminating against potential renters, even if it’s unintentional. Numerous federal laws make it punishable to discriminate against a renter based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, handicap, and familial status. These laws include:

  • Fair Housing Act (FHA): The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The FHA manages all aspects of the rental process, including advertising, tenant selection, and terms and conditions of tenancy.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Also covered by FHA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Landlords who own multi-unit buildings of 4 units or more must provide reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, such as offering accessible parking spaces or putting grab bars in bathrooms.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that outlaws discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older. Although the ADEA is initially designed to protect employees, it also restricts discrimination in housing on the basis of age.
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is a federal law prohibiting discrimination in credit transactions, including rental transactions. Under the ECOA, landlords may not discriminate against individuals based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, age, or because they receive public assistance.

Apart from federal law, it’s best to research state and local law. There may be other protected classes depending on local regulations.

When composing your rental ads, avoid using language that could be regarded as discrimination, such as expressing that you will not rent to seniors or people with children or that you won’t rent to those who live on government assistance. Then, as you obtain applications and screen renters, fairly assess your applicants based on the information they provide and not on other criteria. By maintaining professionalism and utilizing an unbiased screening system, you can stay clear of discriminating against any potential renters.

Understanding Reasonable Accommodations

Furthermore, it is best not to assume that someone with a disability is automatically an unfitting candidate for your rental property. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, West Lebanon property managers are bound to make “reasonable accommodations” for their renters, should they be demanded. By definition, a reasonable accommodation is “a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” If your prospective renter otherwise meets the criteria for renting your property, accommodation should not be a reason to disqualify them. The accommodation a renter requests would be paid for and installed by the renter, with the condition that they will return the property to its original condition upon move-out.

Other accommodations incorporate accepting service and emotional support animals in the rental property, regardless of whether you have a strict policy banning pets. Service and emotional support animals are not counted in a rental pet policy. You may not collect additional rent or fees if a renter has a service animal on the property.

Learning all the laws and best practices for leasing rental properties can be confusing. Why not assign this significant task to a professional property manager? At Real Property Management Beacon, we deliver transparent and anti-discriminatory screening and leasing services to help our rental property owners find the ideal renters. Contact us today or call us at 603-448-8808 to learn more.


Originally published on June 4, 2021

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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