Written Rental Criteria Now Texas Law
August 1, 2007
The Texas legislature recently passed into law a requirement that landlords make available to all applicants their written rental criteria. Those criteria must specify the grounds under which an application may be denied. In addition the applicant must acknowledge that he or she has received the rental criteria either in the form of a separate document or as part of the rental application.
It’s a shame the state of Texas, or any state for that matter, had to institute such a law, since landlords should have been doing that all along, what with it just being good business practice and all.
We at the Rental Property Reporter have advocated written rental criteria for at least 15 years. Why? Three very good reasons. The first reason is that you, as a landlord, know who is an acceptable applicant. You have studied characteristics of the tenants who live or have lived in your properties and have come up with acceptable criteria as to rental history, income, credit history, and criminal history.
The second reason is that prospective tenants who are handed written criteria and who don’t meet those criteria often simply vanish into the night, never to be heard from again. Since they know they are likely to be rejected as tenants, they don’t bother to even apply, pay the application fee, and lose their application fee.
The third reason is that written criteria are as shield against Fair Housing complaints and hassles. If you can show that your rental criteria are consistent with the Fair Housing Act and that you have applied the criteria equally and fairly, you are largely protected against a sustained complaint to the Fair Housing enforcers.
The language we suggest for the top of the rental criteria is:
“We are working with neighbors and other landlords to maintain the quality of the neighborhood. We want to make sure that our tenants are good neighbors. To that end we have a thorough screening process. If you meet the application criteria and are accepted, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that other tenants in this area are being screened with equal care. Please review our list of rental requirements.
If you meet them, please apply. We provide equal housing opportunity. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, creed, color, national origin, marital status, sex, familial status or handicap.”
Don’t wait for your state to follow suit and require written rental criteria for all landlords. If you haven’t already created them for your property, do so now.