As one of the first times most millennials are looking to move out on their own, new renters are excited at the prospect of having their own space to call home. The allure of independence—the freedom to stay up watching Netflix, the freedom to choose whatever they want to eat (which for some ultimately results in instant ramen and McDonalds), and the freedom to follow their professional and educational goals no matter what city it’s in—brings growing numbers of millennials to the market. According to Multifamily Executive, Millennial renters have “increased from 37% in 2010 to 50% today”. Undeniably this new generation of renters offers quite the business opportunity.
Despite the appeal renting has for millennials, in Sandra Bravo’s case, the “process” of looking for a home deterred her from renting. Sandra recanted that during a house tour the homeowner would only respond to her and her roommates in one-worded sentences, quickly moving away from her questions about the security deposit and application fees to go show the other families around the house. Rather than giving her and her roommates a tour like she did with the families, the homeowner repeatedly told them they could “walk around”. Rather than voluntarily and immediately being handed an application like the families were, Sandra stated that she had to wait and request an application.
Instead of feeling excited about the property, Sandra left stressed and anxious. She confessed that, at the time, she was worried all property owners would treat her with the same discrimination. The Fair Housing Act “prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or handicap”. Not all families have a strong financial or rental background and not all millennial applicants are broke and irresponsible, so regardless of age (and any other identifiers) Sandra should have received equal treatment. Rather than acting on objective decisions, the landowner’s treatment was biased and discriminatory.
While the FCRA “promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies”, it’s up to you to stay diligent in maintaining the sense of impartiality when interacting with all your potential renters. Although Sandra Bravo didn’t understand that the way she was being treated was against the law, she did acknowledge that the unfairness of the situation led her to believe that her application would automatically be denied, and so she did not apply.
This should serve as a reminder that demonstrating bias can potentially result in negative outcomes. Sandra may have chosen not to pursue any action against the property, but with 50% of millennials looking to rent the reality is they will continue educating themselves about their rights. When looking for renters, the best course of action is to keep an open mind and trust in objective information, such as background checks, before discouraging applicants from applying.