Whether you’re just starting out as a landlord or are growing your real estate empire, the following information is essential to managing your rentals!  It is 1000% harder to defend your actions than it is to prevent them!  Unfortunately, ignorance is not bliss for this job!

While we stay mainly on the federal level (United States) you will also want to familiarize yourself with state and local regulations as well!

Now grab a drink (no judgments here if your coffee has a little bite to it!) and let’s dive in!

“Make yourself strong, so you don’t break.” ― Bert McCoy


Ah, good ol’ HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development).  We figured we’d start this article off by diving right into the thick of it!  First – do you need to follow these guidelines even if your rental is not receiving government assistance like Section 8?  YES!  These are federal laws and deal with many hot topics like discrimination.

We ALWAYS recommend you read directly from the source!  Be careful of feeds or articles or third-party companies that speak about these elements – the best information is always the original information!

Laws you need to be aware of, include but are not limited to, the following – 

While you can see many of the laws listed are from the 1960’s and 1970’s, the government is always modifying or releasing memorandums to clarify portions of each law above.  We recommend that every year or so you re-remind yourself of each document and see if another update or memorandum has been provided.

Fair Housing

Fair Housing – it’s something that I’m sure you’ve heard of even if your rentals are not receiving government assistance, but what does it mean? 

Fair housing laws state that “it is illegal to discriminate in the… rental of housing, including against individuals seeking… housing assistance, or in other housing-related activities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits this discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. A variety of other federal civil rights laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibit discrimination in housing and community development programs and activities, particularly those that are assisted with HUD funding. These civil rights laws include obligations such as taking reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities for persons with limited English proficiency (LEP) and taking appropriate steps to ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities through the provision of appropriate auxiliary aids and services. Various federal fair housing and civil rights laws require HUD and its program participants to affirmatively further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act.” (FHEO).

Special care needs to be taken regarding “for rent” ads you place.   Depending on how you word the advertisement and address potential renters, it could get you in trouble from a discrimination standpoint.  Learn more here: Advertising and Marketing Guidelines


For anyone who uses a lease created by the Association of Realtors, you have probably seen a section that looks a lot like this – 

Excerpt From PA Association of Realtors Form RL

So what exactly is this and what disclosure should we as landlords be providing?  Well, this is dictated by the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) for homes built before 1978.  Lead was used as an additive to many products, including paint, and can be toxic to humans and animals.  The law requires Landlords to disclose to our tenants this fact.  Read more about why you need to know about lead here: Learn about Lead

Now, onto the actual disclosure – The EPA has created a “Lead-Based Paint Hazards Disclosure” document which you are required to share with your prospective tenant.  As landlords ourselves, we usually attach this to our lease and have them sign the cover sheet of the document for our files, indicating we did, in fact, disclose this.

You may also ask some of the same questions we did, like 1) if my property was renovated post-1978 does this still apply to me? or 2) I’ve painted this property multiple times since 1978, how can there possibly be lead?  or 3) Wait… do I have to test all of my units for lead?  We approach those questions and variables by just assuming there’s lead no matter what, so if our property was built before the cutoff year, we always include this disclosure.

Children & minors

When it comes to renting to those with children or minors, there are a few places you need to look  regarding the guidelines.

First, as we dive into above, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) that focuses mainly on discrimination against families with children.  Can you just choose to not rent to kids? No.  Can you kick someone out after they’ve had a child?  NO!

However, can you as the Landlord say that your one-bedroom apartment is not suitable for a family of 5?  YES.  Per the Fair Housing Enforcement – Occupancy Standards (“Keating Memorandum”) it states the following: 

“…there is no basis to conclude that Congress intended that an owner or manager of dwellings would be unable to restrict the number of occupants who could reside in a dwelling.  Thus, the Department believes that in appropriate circumstances, owners and managers may develop and implement reasonable occupancy requirements based on factors such as the number and size of sleeping areas or bedrooms and the overall size of the dwelling unit.

This memorandum then goes on to provide theoretical examples of situations that are deemed either discriminatory or not.

Some states and municipalities also have “overcrowding” laws or codes, which regulate how many people can share a living space.  While this doesn’t directly apply to children, it does so in the fact of the total occupants of a dwelling.

The second resource we, as Landlords, like to use are the guidelines set forth by Child Welfare Services or Child Protective Services.  There are resources for which CPS evaluates families and their living situation, including evaluating how and where the children sleep and with who (siblings of same sex, siblings of opposite sex, etc).

Now these guidelines are set by state, so please review accordingly.

The third resource regarding children (or occupants) is your local fire code.  Just like the “overcrowding” laws or codes mentioned above, your municipality could have restrictions on people per bedroom or based on the square footage of the unit.

All of these resources are ultimately great for both Landlords and Tenants – it allows the Landlord to set clear guidelines without flying too close or too far from discrimination and it ensures the Tenant and their children live in a home that is safe for them.  Oh… and keeps you from getting fined.  That’s always a perk! 


FEMA Flood Map Lookup – FEMA, or The Federal Emergency Management Agency, is a government agency that “is helping people before, during and after disasters. Our core values and guiding principles help us achieve it.”  Whether you’re looking at a new property to purchase or analyzing your own, using FEMA’s “search by address” feature on their interactive map is very helpful!  You will need to know this information for both mortgage and insurance purposes.  Nothing is worse than going through a natural disaster, like flooding, and NOT being covered properly insurance-wise!

This “search by address, place or coordinates” feature is very helpful for those who don’t want to look up their homes the old way – by map quadrant!    Plus, this site lets you know the last time the flood map was changed in your area, as FEMA is actively updated their data across the United States.


Here are some great books that will also help you manage your rental properties!

TIP: If you are not a fan of reading but want to learn, buy the audio book and place the speed at 1.5X – yes the narrator will sound like a chipmunk at first, but then your brain will adjust and you’ll be able to absorb the information more quickly!

Jessie Ellis

Jessie Ellis

Wife, friend and dog mom with 18+ years of education and 12+ years as a commercial design professional. Always inquisitive, creative and empathetic; trying to live each day with intention.

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