Keeping your unit occupied at all times helps you sleep at night, doesn’t it? One month of vacancy can really hit your profits, not to mention two. So as the end of a tenant’s lease draws near and there’s no chance of a renewal,

it’s time to find a brand new tenant. But when doing so, make sure you’reknow the protected classes screening your potential applicants properly. And fairly. 

Being aware of so-called “protected classes” will keep you out of trouble. There are few things worse than being on the wrong end of a housing discrimination lawsuit. You can certainly screen your tenants, but there are some things you simply must avoid.

First, what exactly are the protected classes? A protected class is a trait based upon a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status. You simply can’t evaluate a lease application and use any of these criteria as a basis for approval.

For example, you can’t advertise your property as being “Perfect for a family with children” which implies that unless you’re legally married and have dependent children, don’t apply. That’s illegal. You can’t discriminate based upon age, either. As long as someone is over the age of 18, you can’t limit occupancy based upon the age of a prospective tenant. There are retirement villages that cater to the senior crowd and have been ruled exempt from the age class as long as the occupants are 62 years or older or a rule that requires at least one occupant be 55 or older. HUD has determined long exempt such senior centers from age exclusion.

It’s discriminatory to not return phone calls because the voice has a foreign accent. You can’t discriminate against what church someone does or doesn’t go to. You can “discriminate” against someone who doesn’t have a job or has a history of evictions, but you can’t refuse an application based upon a protected class.