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Being a landlord, I discovered years ago that there are a lot of marketers trying to sell lead lists posing as someone who is relocating. The problem is this, my rentals are in a tiny town that no-one, I mean no-one would likely relocate to unless they are from the area originally. This makes any so-called lead-list pure junk. As well, people entrap landlords into a lawsuits using online advertising. My experience that these forms of drive-bys are also under the guise of a person relocating.

Another issue is that there is a state penitentiary in a neighboring state and the local town is rife with crime as a result. This is because relatives of the inmate want to move closer to the prison. Not being familiar with the area, we often get people trying to move into the area even though the prison is 30-40 miles away. Where people have moved to this area to be near the prison, it has been a disaster resulting in thousands of dollars lost during eviction, damages, and loss in reputation. It is easy to get caught in this trap and I personally lost $8000 last year as a result. Background checks rarely help with this unfortunately.

I only rent to people I can meet, evaluate personally, and can see and approve the rental in person. So far, it has always worked out and I have not had this as a problem until recently when I began advertising on-line. Today I got a on-line lead with no phone number and a throw-away e-mail address that appears to belong to a person in North Carolina doing a search for the e-mail address. There is no other information. For what it is worth, online rental ads are where the marketers and drive-bys get their contacts from. Otherwise, this would not be a problem.

Is my policy legal? As well, it is legal to include in the on-line ad local residents and principles only?

[Edit] @phoog brings up a great point. Perhaps the policy could be principles only and all inquiries require in-person interviews and approval of the rental. The policy wording may need to be massaged a bit. Thank You @phoog!

  • Probably you mean "principals", since local principles would be a case of situational ethics :-) But as far as legality goes (IANAL) you should be good since you don't specify any of the impermissible restrictions (sex,age, religion, marital status, etc) – MMacD Feb 2 '17 at 17:24
  • @MMacD I know my wording is not the best on this. I do actually want to restrict responses from people who are not from the area unless they are from the area originally. We do get people coming home and that is fine. Otherwise, people who are not from here really have no reason to come here short of retirees. And even then, this is a predominately Mennonite farming region and a bit rough if you are not used to living in the country. The people are absolutely lovely, it is just the area is culturally stern and not necessarily user friendly. – closetnoc Feb 2 '17 at 17:33
  • @MMacD To give you some context, a friend of mine from Pennsylvania, raised on a farm near the Amish (Amish are Old Order Mennonites), just two hours east of us, had a hard time getting along because the Mennonites and other locals cast a hard eye on people from out of the area. If you are a traveler, they will welcome you into their home, insist upon it, feed you, and treat you extremely well, however, if you move in next door, then you better be local culturally or you will not fit in. My friend moved back home after just a couple of years of being frustrated. Sad really. – closetnoc Feb 2 '17 at 17:42
  • Interesting question. It seems to me that discriminating based on current or previous place of residence ought to be prohibited, but doesn't seem to be prohibited explicitly by the FHA. Of course, it could be prohibited by judicial interpretation or by another law. If it is prohibited, you might be able to achieve your goal by other means. For example, requiring a personal interview seems like it should be legal, and there may be other (more directly relevant) criteria you can use to meet your entirely reasonable and legal goals of avoiding destructive or deadbeat tenants. – phoog Feb 2 '17 at 17:42
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    @Nij It has been my working policy to restrict access to those I have met and view the apartment even if not actually stated. Landlords are often sued by drive-bys as a result of an ad. This is extremely common. I have this question on AVVO and will potentially put it to my attorney. I just thought it was an interesting question for AVVO and SE users as a thought exercise. It is nearly impossible to ask a question here without a solicitation for legal advice. I am not accepting any answers as legal advice, but rather as a good solid answer. You are making a good and valid point! Cheers!! – closetnoc Feb 2 '17 at 19:28

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