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Fair Housing in Practice: Dos and Don’ts for DC Property Owners

The moment you engage in conversation with a prospective tenant, they have rights. Fair treatment of tenants doesn’t just start at the time of reviewing an application; it starts with your rental listing going live. Every word you use, every response, and every way you treat one client differently from another can be called into question. You may have even heard the phrase “professional tenant,” and yes, we’ve dealt with them, too. When laws in DC seem so stacked against property owners, there are folks who try to take advantage, looking for any misstep you might make. Sometimes, it’s even a legal intern on the other side of the phone, listening and auditing to make sure that you are treating everyone fairly.

Sound scary and impossible to navigate? It’s not, really. But you have to understand DC’s laws and also set your own criteria ahead of time. Then, stick to it and always remember that common sense and striving to treat everyone equally are your guiding principles. 

While fair housing covers every aspect of renting, it’s during the marketing and application screening phases that we see the most mistakes. Here are some dos and don’ts you need to keep in mind when renting your property:


DON’T (yes, it’s a long list and yes, we’ve seen all of these happen!)

“Profile” the ideal tenant

Steer applicants away from properties based on what you think their preferences are

Make exceptions to your criteria based on preference for a specific tenant

Discuss crime rates, schools, or other residents

Discourage applicants and avoid appealing to protected classes in advertising

Raise rents to avoid housing choice voucher tenants

Restrict assistance animals or number of children

Offer discounts for a certain tenant profile

Using language that targets residents (e.g. “great schools!” or “perfect for a nursery”)

Photo of a bedroom staged as a nursey.
Stating a room is best used as a nursery or for a specific purpose is generally a "don't" when marketing a property.



Treat every applicant equally

Have clear applicant parameters for qualification

Understand the law

Encourage applicants to do their own research

Say “yes” to housing voucher recipients 


If you’re looking for someone to manage your rental and the leasing process for you, call our Nest DC team at 202.540.8038. Renting beautiful spaces and keeping compliant is what we do. 

Want some more resources? We have lots of good info on our Youtube channel about fair housing, DC’s rental assistance programs, and the benefits of working with voucher recipients

Stay tuned for our next article in this Fair Housing series, where we’ll discuss allowable criteria in tenant screening and best practices for making sure you are not only in compliance but renting to qualified tenants.


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