How to Find Good Tenants (Without Breaking the Law)

Whether you rent out a few modest units or you’re a commercial landlord with multiple buildings, you know that filling a vacancy can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Furthermore, many landlords are reluctant to advertise because they’re fearful of violating fair housing laws. This is understandable, but it can also prevent them from finding responsible, qualified tenants.

Fortunately, with a little education and some practice, you can create advertisements and rental applications that attract eligible tenants without running afoul of fair housing laws.

Know the Law

If you’re in the business of leasing property, you must familiarize yourself with the laws that protect tenants from discriminatory housing practices, such as refusals to rent, discriminatory rental terms, and other prohibited areas of discrimination.


Although this may sound overwhelming, this is one area where informational resources are plentiful at the local, state, and federal levels of government. At the federal level, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity publishes resources for landlords regarding what constitutes housing discrimination. Additionally, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is a comprehensive resource for landlords throughout the state.


When you know the law, you are much less likely to engage in unlawful behavior that could cost you significant time and money down the road.

Advertise Smart

Be descriptive, but also be careful with your words. It’s temping – and quite easy – to include something like “nearby park ideal for joggers” but this could be interpreted as excluding people who are wheelchair-bound, elderly, or otherwise disabled or impaired. Instead, say something like “nearby parks will appeal to nature lovers.” The distinction might be subtle, but it can make a big difference in the world of real estate advertising.

Create a Uniform Application and Screening Process

Fair housing violation allegations often arise when prospective tenants claim that a landlord’s rental application or screening process is discriminatory. Landlords should work with a California real estate and contract lawyer to create an application that complies with local, state, and federal law. For example, it is permissible for landlords to ask applicants about past bankruptcies, prior evictions, and other financial matters, but landlords should not be asking prospective tenants about disabilities, mental illness, or sexual orientation. The most important thing to remember is that landlords must treat all prospective tenants exactly the same. If you are going to require tenants to submit to a background screening and credit check, you must make everyone do so – not just certain groups.

California Real Estate and Eviction Law

Kirkman J. Hoffman has more than 20 years’ experience representing commercial and residential landlords, owners, and property managers in Silicon Valley and the surrounding regions. Contact the team at Hoffman Law Group today at (408) 241-9620 to discuss your case.


This website has been prepared by Hoffman Law Group, APC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.