When someone says you have demanding tastes, it’s usually a compliment. However, when it comes to owning or selling your home, you should be wary of tasteful types of discrimination and those that are against the law. It is perfectly fine to discriminate against a potential tenant or buyer on the basis of being a noisy jerk. It is not acceptable to discriminate against someone because they belong to a protected class.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act makes various practices related to obtaining and financing housing, among others, illegal if these practices are discriminatory on the basis of protected characteristics such as race, religious belief, color, origin. national, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, health status, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, and military or veteran status.
In the past, realtors would recommend that potential buyers write letters to sellers explaining how perfect the sellers house was for them, how their kids would splash around in the backyard pool all summer and the kitchen was. perfect for the big family reunions that they had always dreamed of. Buyers would include photos of themselves, revealing a considerable amount of information – their age, ethnicity and potentially information about their lifestyle and religion. These letters are now illegal – illegal for realtors to recommend, illegal for buyers to write, and illegal for sellers to use to identify and discriminate on protected class information.
Also in the past, owners refused to rent to young couples if they were not married or to people with disabilities for fear that their guide dog or wheelchair would damage their property. These reasons no longer fly. Couples can move in together before marriage, and people with disabilities are like everyone else in that if they damage a property, they pay for the damage. People have proven that they don’t need a guide dog or a wheelchair to do a lot of property damage.
When it comes to renting, landlords cannot discriminate based on the tenant’s source of income, as long as it is a legal and documented source of income. If someone has a Section 8 housing voucher, for example, the law says landlords cannot refuse to rent to them on that basis. Fun Fact: Sometimes people don’t rent or sell to lawyers because they feel like lawyers are quick to take legal action if there is a disagreement. I think it depends on the lawyer.
The question homeowners and sellers – and by extension their real estate agents – should ask themselves is, will this person be a good tenant or buyer? Can they afford this place? Will they pay the rent or the mortgage payments on time? Do they feel they would be reasonable to deal with if a disagreement arose? Do they seem to take care of their property? Will they make good neighbors?
If you meet someone who seems obnoxious or has the right, or clearly has unrealistic expectations that seem likely to lead to misunderstandings, you can discriminate all day. If potential buyers want to breed pit bulls, and the neighbor’s children are scared of dogs, you can discriminate. If a potential tenant shows up in a car that looks like it was saved from the demolition derby and walks over the sidewalk to park on the sidewalk, making it difficult for pedestrians to cross, you can (and probably should) be discriminating.
As long as your reason for refusing a tenant or a buyer is not related to one of the protected categories, you are fine. Laws protecting people from discrimination are not foolproof, but at least they send an important message.
If you have any questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at email@example.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, please share it with me and if I use it I will send you a $ 25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. To view previous articles, visit www.selzerrealty.com and click on “How’s the Market“.
Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has worked in the field for over 45 years.