As a landlord, you have probably heard numerous nightmare stories about tenants that have raised concerns as you rent your own property. As you set expectations for your tenants and/or create policies for your property, it is important to understand the lay of the land so-to-speak. Here is a list of common landlord questions we encounter, and the answers that may help you better understand your position:
My house is in a family neighborhood, and I like the neighbors so I want a family to move in. Can we decline applications from a bunch of roommates who want to apply?
Our answer to that question is no, and we will tell you why. Many owners hope for a family instead of roommates, but family status is a protected class under the Federal Fair Housing Act, and marital status is a protected class under Oregon law. Trying to draw a line between people in a relationship or family and people who are just roommates creates a great deal of risk and liability (and our lawyers agree). As property managers, it is our job to minimize risk. This is why the best practice is to rent to whatever group qualifies first under the published screening criteria.
I don’t want a bunch of people living in my property. Can I limit the number of tenants who can live there?
Yes. You can restrict the number of people who can live in a unit, but the best practice (also the recommendation of the Fair Housing Council of Oregon) is that landlords follow a “two plus one” occupancy standard. This means that there would be two people allowed per bedroom plus one extra person. Many landlords hope to be more restrictive than that, but being more restrictive than the 2x bedrooms +1 formula greatly increases your risk and liability. This is why we subscribe to the “two plus one” standard.
Can my property be advertised as “no pets” to ensure no animals will be kept there?
Your property can absolutely be advertised as having a no pet policy. The important distinction to draw is that a “service/therapy/assistance/companion animal” is not a pet. The terms “assistance”, “companion”, “therapy”, and “service” animals are all interchangeable in terms of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and under the FHA, residents only need a note from any health care provider that the animal is necessary to accommodate their disability. No certification, registration, or training of the animal is required. Here is a link where HUD outlines reasonable accommodations under the FHA.
It is important not to confuse this with the standards for animals in public spaces. Public spaces, not covered by the FHA, are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires that animals in public spaces (transit, restaurants, libraries, etc.) be a “service animal” that must be registered and trained. This is a much higher standard than housing.
I prefer to do my own maintenance. Can I do any repair work needed at move-out and then charge the tenant’s security deposit?
Yes, owners can do their own maintenance/repairs, but there are guidelines that must be followed (per ORS 90.300):
- Charges can be made for damage, but not normal wear and tear. This damage must be documented and legitimate.
- The penalty for inflating the repair cost of damages is 2x the security deposit.
- Work performed by the homeowner must be billed at a “reasonable hourly rate” that is comparable to the rate charged by vendors.
This is why our best practice is to require a documented invoice for hourly work performed by a homeowner and receipts for materials used.
If you have questions about any of our answers or why we have developed the policies that we follow, we would be happy to talk to you. Feel free to contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-376-7234 x 1000.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.com