Most Texas landlords conduct a thorough screening of rental application before leasing a property. Usually, it involves looking at the tenant’s credit history, criminal record, eviction reports, or even sexual offender registration. As a landlord, how can you legally turn down tenant applications? This article looks at Texas State laws and provides you an overview of how you can reject an application for a residential lease.
Although, as a landlord, you are not legally bound to use a written rental application form, it is advisable to have a potential renter fill out a form to protect yourself from potential lawsuits. Should you have an applicant who feels discriminated in your rental property application, a form or written agreement can help show your legal basis for selecting a different tenant. If you want to know more about which information to collect from applicants, it is better to consult with a landlord attorney.
Illegal Reasons for Rejection
As a landlord, you are legally entitled to prescribe your tenancy conditions when posting a lease as long as it doesn’t discriminate against prospective tenants. As such, you can set the minimum income or credit report for a potential tenant, as well as the occupancy unit for your property.
However, when choosing the tenant, take note that any form of discrimination may lead to facing a lawsuit in line with the anti-discrimination law, also known as the Federal Fair Housing Acts. It is unlawful for property managers to disregard an applicant, and they may even be sued for any of the following reasons:
- Appearance – physical looks, color, race, nationality
- Disability – mental condition ability or any other forms of disabilities
- Preference – religion (and in some states, marital status, and gender identity and sexual orientation)
Legal Grounds to Reject Applicants
The property owner is allowed to turn down a lease application based on any of the following reasons:
- Credit report – a low credit score or a poor credit history
- Income – earnings are insufficient for the payment of rent
- Criminal history – a record of a criminal conviction or felony
- Rental housing history – previous eviction notice, abandonment of property, lousy reference from former landlords, negative landlord and tenant relationship
- Employment history – harmful recommendations from a former employer
- Other reasons that are non-discriminating
As for the last criteria, as a landlord, you can award a residential lease agreement based on your personal preferences, such as having pets prohibited or choosing non-smoking renters so long as these restrictions do not go against the fair housing laws.
Misrepresentations in Rental Application Forms
If you find out that an applicant provided false information or is deliberately withholding vital data, you have a legitimate reason not to continue the rent agreement. You are entitled to know all facts to help you decide to whom you will award the lease contract.
Once you signed a lease, it would be difficult to turn back on your rental lease agreement and even harder to go through the eviction process if you find out too late that your tenants can’t pay rent, and you are forced to make repairs on damages left. To avoid making a wrong choice about renting your property, knowing your rights as a landlord, and understanding the kinds of data you can collect from your applicants is critical.
You can get help in setting up your property lease agreement and creating a list of your tenant preferences by hiring a Texas landlord attorney. But in a nutshell, you must check that the set of questions you ask one applicant should be the same for the rest.
If you require legal advice as an investor and property manager, contact a real estate lawyer. Girling Law Firm, PLLC provides comprehensive legal representation to residential real estate investors in Texas. Our landlord attorneys will make sure that you avoid any legal troubles in your rental screening process.
Our Texas tenant-landlord law firm also has eviction attorneys that can handle eviction trials. We can also help you manage property shelters, background checks for tenants, drafting landlord-tenant agreements, and defending you against housing discrimination claims brought to court. Call us today at (817) 864-8228 to discuss your case.