If you own investment properties in the Philadelphia area, you are already aware of risks such as fire damage, water damage, and personal liability. You know that insurance in Delaware County, PA, is a must. However, there is a risk that is almost always over-looked, but becoming more prevalent in today’s insurance… tenant discrimination.
New guidelines from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) give tenants the ability to file discrimination lawsuits online. Because of this, Pennsylvania courts are being inundated with cases of tenant discrimination, some with merit, and some with no merit. Either way, the owner of the property will end up with a large legal bill defending the case.
The Fair Housing Act seeks to prevent discrimination based on race, color, national origin etc. While you shouldn’t be screening tenants based on these factors, running criminal background checks on potential tenants can also leave you in hot water under these guidelines. The reason for this is the disproportionate incarceration rate among minorities, especially African-Americans and Hispanics.
Blanket bans on anyone with a criminal record is specifically what HUD is trying to prevent. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t use criminal history on your tenant-screening process. You can still use it to show that there is a justifiable concern for the welfare of neighbors, tenants, or your property.
Here are some recommendations to avoid or mitigate a discrimination lawsuit:
- Remove any wording from your lease or application indicating that a criminal record is an automatic declination
- Evaluate the conviction to justify your concern over renting to a potential tenant. Include factors like: How old is the offense? How old was the applicant when the offense was committed? Were there multiple offenses? How severe is the crime? Was this person arrested, or were they actually convicted of the crime?
- Keep records of your denials to assist you in defending your decision if the issue should arise.
If you do end up in court for discrimination, it is very likely that your property insurance policy does not provide coverage to you or your business. However, a 3rd Party EPLI policy can provide the coverage you need in the event of a discrimination lawsuit. The cost of an EPLI policy is minimal and will vary depending on how many units you own. Even if the lawsuit ultimately proves to be without merit, your policy will pick up the tab for legal fees and provide defense from an attorney who understands these types of claims.
We understand how people can feel overwhelmed when thinking about getting insurance in Delaware County, PA, and we’re help to help. Call Risk Averse Insurance in Media, PA to discuss the coverage that is right for you and your investment properties in Delaware County, PA or another county in the Philadelphia area.
Risk Averse Insurance specializes in providing high-quality insurance products at an affordable price. Contact us today to learn more.