Florida landlords benefit from working and owning properties in such an appealing state. People want to live in the Sunshine State, as evidenced by the recent U.S. Census report that Florida is the fastest-growing state in the nation. Generally, this means any vacancy will see droves of applicants looking for a place to live. This does not guarantee every landlord will see good applicants, however.

Landlords need to weed out the bad tenants who pose a threat to their properties. Screening applicants will help you do this, but it’s imperative that all local laws and regulations surrounding tenant screening are followed to avoid lawsuits against you and your business.

Personal information

You obviously need to know who it is that’s applying for your property. This means gathering certain personal information during the application process, including:

  • Name(s)
  • Current residential address
  • Former residential addresses if the current residence is recent or temporary
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Driver’s license number
  • Social security number

That last piece is obviously a vital piece of private information that must be protected. You and your team need to be careful about how and where sensitive information is received and stored.

Background checks

What’s important to note is that just because an applicant gives you their social security number does not mean they are consenting to a background check. Florida law requires express written consent for any background check to be conducted, so your application should include a section that explicitly asks for said consent.

A background check will be important to ensure the safety of your property, people, and community. You create financial liability if you ignore certain red flags and can also decrease your property value if crimes occur on or near your property.

Florida does not allow landlords to apply any blanket rules automatically denying tenancy due to a criminal record. All applicants must be considered even if they have a criminal record, but you are not required to approve them, either.

Financial information

A tenant who cannot pay rent does not serve you or your business. Asking for financial documents like pay stubs, tax forms, and bank statements is permitted to ensure a potential tenant can afford housing costs.

Florida law does allow landlords to have minimum income requirements for properties. However, a recent trend of implementing a “tenant bill of rights” in several municipalities is challenging the way landlords gather and use information related to income sources.

As with any personal information, these documents must be tightly protected and only used when necessary.

Animal information

This one can get tricky. You are undeniably permitted to have a strict no-pet policy for your properties. However, there are loopholes for valid reasons that landlords cannot afford to miss.

You are allowed to ask for information about any pets. However, a tenant does not have to disclose if they have a qualified service or emotional support animal. These pets can live in any property, even if the landlord has a strict no-pet policy.

If you approve a tenant and they later inform you of this, you can only ask for documentation and information about the pet to confirm qualification. You should not press for information about the reasons the animal is needed or about the severity of a tenant’s disability.

Some people have attempted to abuse emotional support animal guidelines, so it’s important to be aware of how these laws work and when you can actually kick a tenant out for attempting to subvert the process.

Have an attorney review your application process

Are you unsure whether or not your application process violates these or other guidelines/laws in Florida? An attorney can review your application process and ensure you are gathering all the appropriate information, guaranteeing you the opportunity to select the right tenants for your properties.

When you need a landlord’s advocate, look no further than Atlas Law.