Federal regulations limit the types of questions a landlord may ask a potential tenant during the interview process, and sometimes states will have their own local laws as well. A landlord may not ask questions about race, religion, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. They also may not have a special set of questions for certain groups.
There are a fair amount of subjects that can be approached by a landlord to make sure that he or she is renting out their property to someone who can and will pay the agreed upon rent. One of the major things that they should check on is the applicant's ability. This means that they may ask questions about income and the applicant's job. They will also most likely run a credit check and may need certain information such as a social security number and/or driver's license number for this.
Calling to check on prior landlords and employers is a regular practice. They may not request information from references that are limited by federal and local laws, but they may check on other information to put their mind at ease that the potential tenant can and will pay.
Smokers and pet owners are not covered by federal law. A landlord may request this information and potentially turn down an applicant if they do not wish to have a smoking tenant or a pet on the property. Requesting the number of people that will be living on the property is also valid, but requesting to know relationship to those people is not.
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