U.S. Tenant Screening Laws

Do you know the tenant screening laws for your state? Learn how to avoid discrimination and other mistakes when you are screening and choosing tenants.

Avoiding Discrimination: The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act disallows landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants due to their race, color, religion, sex, *familial status, national origin or handicap. *Familial status refers to pregnant women or families with member(s) under 18 years old.  42 U.S.C. §§ 3604

In addition, some states also outlaw other forms of discrimination such as age, marital status or sexual orientation.

The Fair Housing Act applies to rental housing in all U.S. states. However if the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them, then he or she isn't required to follow this law in most states. This is known the Mrs. Murphy Exemption (or Mrs. Murphy Exception).

While Mrs. Murphy landlords can choose their tenants and impose different conditions based on color, religion, sex, familial status, nationality or disability, they are NOT allowed to post discriminatory advertisements.  42 U.S.C. § 3604(c)

Background and Credit Check

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is another tenant screening law that all U.S. landlords have to follow.  Fair Credit Reporting Act § 604(a)(3)(F)

Landlords do not need permission from tenants or applicants to run background and credit checks on them.

If the landlord rejects them or charges them extra due to the background or credit checks, the landlord has to give them an adverse action notice. This adverse action notice must contain the following information:

  • name, address and phone number of tenant screening company
  • tenant screening company did not make the unfavorable decision and cannot give reasons for it
  • tenant applicant can dispute the information provided by the tenant screening company and can ask the company for a free report within 60 days

You can screen tenant applicants with a background check or full credit report from RentPrep.

A background check will show a person's history of addresses, evictions, bankruptcies, judgments and liens.

A full credit report comes with a basic background check, credit check plus criminal check. A basic background check shows a person's history of addresses, evictions and bankruptcies.

Tenant Screening Laws by State

The federal Fair Housing Act disallows landlords to discriminate renters due to their race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap.

Alabama

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Alaska

Alaska state law prohibits landlords from discriminating against someone as a tenant due to his or her marital status.  AS § 18.80.200

Landlords have to follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws in all cases.  AS § 18.80.240

In addition to the above federal and state laws, it is also illegal for landlords in Anchorage to discriminate against tenant applicants due to their age.  A.M.C. § 05.20.020

Arizona

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Arkansas

Arkansas state law prohibits landlords from discriminating against domestic abuse victims.  Ark. Code § 18-16-112.(b)(1)

If the dwelling is owner-occupied with four or less rental units AND the landlord meets the conditions under Ark. Code § 16-123-306, then he or she won't have follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws.

California

California tenant screening law disallows landlord from discriminating against prospective tenants due to their marital status, sexual orientation, language or immigration status.  CA Civ Code § 51

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws UNLESS they are staying in a single family house and renting part of it to (a maximum of) one individual.  CA Gov't Code § 12927(2)(A)

Landlords can charge a prospective tenant up to $30 as application fees. After receiving the application fees, the landlord has to give the tenant a receipt (with itemized expenses).  CA Civ Code § 1950.6.(b)

Colorado

Colorado state law prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenant applicants based on their ancestry, marital status or sexual orientation.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act except for discrimination based on familial status as stated in C.R.S. 24-34-502.(8).

Connecticut

According to Connecticut state law, landlords cannot discriminate against tenant applicants due to their age, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or lawful income source.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 47a-64c

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-64c.(b)

Delaware

Delaware landlords cannot discriminate against prospective tenants due to their age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, income source or occupation.  Del. Code tit. 25, § 5116

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Landlords can charge a prospective tenant up to $50 as application fees for running background and credit checks.  Del. Code tit. 25, § 5514.(d)

Florida

Florida tenant screening law prohibits landlords from discriminating against members of the armed forces.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Georgia

Landlords have to follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Hawaii

Hawaii landlords cannot discriminate against renters because of age, ancestry, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status or whether the person has HIV.  HRS § 515-3

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Idaho

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and is occupied by the landlord or landlord's family member.  Idaho Code § 67-5910(7)

Illinois

Illinois tenant screening law prohibits landlords from discriminating someone as a renter because of his or her age (40 years or older), ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, arrest record or whether he or she is a victim of domestic violence.  775 ILCS 5/3-102.1(C)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Indiana

Indiana landlords cannot discriminate against someone as a renter because of his or her ancestry.

In addition to federal and state laws, it is also illegal for landlords in Marion County (Indianapolis City) to discriminate against tenant applicants due to their age, sexual orientation or veteran status.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Iowa

Iowa state law prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenant applicants due to their ancestry.  Iowa Code § 216.8

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Kansas

Kansas state laws disallows landlords from discriminating someone as a tenant because of his or her ancestry.  K.S.A. § 40-1016.(b)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Kentucky

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and is occupied by the landlord or landlord's family member.  KRS 344.365(1)

In addition, it is also illegal for landlords in Covington, Lexington and Louisville to discriminate against tenant applicants due to their sexual orientation.

Louisiana

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Maine

Maine state law prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenant applicants because of age, ancestry or sexual orientation.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Maryland

Maryland landlords cannot discriminate against prospective tenants due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Landlords cannot charge prospective tenants more than $25 for application fees.  Md. Code, Real Prop. § 8-213.(b)(1)

Massachusetts

Massachusetts state law prohibits landlords from discriminating renters because of their age, ancestry, military background, sexual preference or marital status.  M.G.L. ch.151B §4.(6),(7)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and is occupied by the landlord or landlord's family member.  M.G.L. ch.151B §4.(11)

Michigan

Michigan tenant screening law disallows discrimination of tenants by age or marital status.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and is occupied by the landlord or landlord's immediate family member.  MCL 37.1503

Minnesota

Minnesota landlords discriminate prospective tenants based on sexual orientation, marital status or reliance on public assistance.  MINN. STAT. 363.02

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws except in the following situations:

1. Landlords living in a single family house and renting out its room(s) are allowed to choose tenants based on sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability or whether they are on public assistance.

2. Landlords living in a dwelling with two or less rental units and renting part(s) of it are allowed to choose tenants based on sexual orientation.  MINN. STAT. 363A.21

Before receiving application fees, the landlord must tell applicants the name, address, phone number of tenant screening service and the landlord's criteria for choosing a tenant.  MINN. STAT. 504B.173 § 3

After receiving application fees, the landlord has to give written receipts to the applicants.

If the landlord rejects an applicant, the landlord has to let the applicant know why he or she was rejected within 13 days. If the landlord accepts an applicant , the landlord must return the application fees to him or her (as long he or she ends up renting the property).  MINN. STAT. 504B.173 § 2

Mississippi

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Missouri

Missouri state law disallows landlords to discriminate against someone as a renter because of his or her ancestry.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Montana

Montana state law disallows landlords to discriminate tenant applicants because of their age or marital status.  MCA § 49-2-305.(a)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.  MCA § 49-2-305.(11)

Nebraska

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Nevada

Nevada disallows landlords from discriminating against someone as a tenant due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  NRS 118.075, 118.093

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws in all cases.

New Hampshire

In addition, New Hampshire landlords cannot discriminate someone as a tenant based on age, sexual orientation or marital status.  RSA 354-A:8

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws except in the following situations:

1. Landlords renting out the only single family house they own. This exemption does not apply to landlords who own two or more single family houses.

2. Landlords renting out dwellings with three or less rental units and are occupied by the landlord or landlord's family member(s).  RSA 354-A:13

In addition, New Hampshire landlords cannot discriminate someone as a tenant based on age, sexual orientation or marital status.  RSA 354-A:8

New Jersey

New Jersey tenant screening law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of his or her gender identity/expression, civil union status, affection/sexual orientation, ancestry, domestic partner status, source of lawful income or marital status.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.  N.J.S.A. 10:5-5(n)

New Mexico

New Mexico state law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of his or her ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or marriage status.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

New York

New York tenant screening law disallows landlords from discriminating someone as a renter because of age, sexual orientation, military status, marital status or lawful income source.  N.Y. Executive Law § 296 5.(a)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws except in the following situations:

1. Dwelling has two or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them OR

2.  All rooms in the dwelling are rented out to people of the same sex.

North Carolina

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

North Dakota

North Dakota state tenant law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of age or marriage status. People on public assistance and victims of domestic violence cannot be discriminated as well.  N.D.C.C. 14-02.5-02(1)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Ohio

Ohio tenant screening law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of ancestry or military status.

Landlords have to follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws in all cases.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma state law disallows landlords from discriminating someone as a renter because his or her age.

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Oregon

Oregon state law disallows landlords from discriminating someone as a renter because of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or lawful income source. Victims of domestic violence cannot be discriminated as well.  ORS 659A.421 (2)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws except in the following situations:

1. Landlords renting out dwellings with common bath or bedroom facilities that are shared by unrelated males and females can choose tenants based on sex.  ORS 659A.421 (6)

2. Landlords living in a single family house and renting part(s) of it can choose choose tenants based on sex, sexual orientation or familial status as long as everyone is sharing some common space.  ORS 659A.421 (8)

Landlords who collect application fees from prospective tenants must give them receipts for the tenant screening charges .  ORS 90.295 (1)(a)

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania tenant screening law prohibits landlords from discriminating someone as a renter because of age.  43 P.S. § 953

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws UNLESS they are renting out rooms in an owner occupied dwelling with a common entrance or shared living areas.  43 P.S. § 955.(h)(10)

Rhode Island

Rhode Island state law disallows landlords from discriminating someone as a renter because of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status or ancestry. Servicemembers, military veterans and domestic abuse victims cannot be discriminated as well.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-37-4.(a)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

South Carolina

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

South Dakota

South Dakota state law prohibits landlords from discriminating against renters because of their ancestry.  SDCL 20-13-20

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Tennessee

Tennessee landlords cannot discriminate someone as a renter because of his or her creed.  T.C.A. § 4-21-601

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has two or less rental units and is occupied by the landlord or landlord's family member.  T.C.A. § 4-21-602

Texas

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Utah

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Vermont

Vermont state law forbids landlords to discriminate renters because of sexual orientation, gender identity, age or marital status. People on public assistance and victims of abuse, sexual assault or stalking cannot be discriminated as well.  9 V.S.A. § 4503

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has three or less rental units and is occupied by the landlord or landlord's immediate family member.  9 V.S.A. § 4504

Virginia

Virginia tenant screening law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of age, income source, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status.  Va. Code § 36-96.3.(A)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.  Va. Code § 36-96.2

Washington

Washington tenant screening law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran's status or marital status.  RCW 49.60.222

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state tenant screening laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

West Virginia

West Virginia state law forbids landlords from discriminating renters because of blindness or ancestry.  W. Va. Code § 5-11A-5.(a)

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act and state discrimination laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin state law disallows landlords from rejecting someone as a renter because of age, lawful income source and sexual orientation. Victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking cannot be discriminated as well.  Wis. Stat. § 66.1011 (1)

In addition, some Wisconsin counties and cities have additional protected classes that landlords cannot discriminate against:

Dane County (including Madison City): military discharge status, physical appearance, political beliefs, domestic partnership, tenant union membership, gender identity, citizenship, Section 8 participation, nonreligion, homelessness

Milwaukee County (including Milwaukee City): gender identity, military service, domestic partnership, genetic identity, homelessness

Appleton City: gender identity, physical appearance

De Pere City: gender identity, physical appearance

Oshkosh City: gender identity, physical appearance

Landlords must follow the above Fair Housing Act laws UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Wyoming

Landlords must follow the federal Fair Housing Act UNLESS the dwelling has four or less rental units and the landlord lives in one of them.

Resources

Tenant Screening Laws: Housing Discrimination under the Fair Housing Act

Background and Credit Check: Using Consumer Reports - What Landlords Need to Know

If you have any questions or need legal advice, you can ask a local landlord tenant lawyer online.

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