Fair housing laws limit what landlords can say and do in the tenant screening and selection process, but they do not prohibit landlords from rejecting tenants based on legitimate business standards, such as a history of nonpayment of rent; negative references from previous landlords; insufficient income to pay the rent; convictions for criminal offenses (unless the conviction was for past drug use); or too many people for the rental unit. Landlords can legally refuse to rent to people with pets, except for service or companion animals, such as a properly trained dog for a disabled person.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, landlords must give certain information (known as “adverse action reports”) to applicants whom they reject as the result of a report from a credit reporting agency or from a tenant screening service. This federal requirement does not apply if the landlord’s decision is based on information that the application provided (for example, on a credit report).
Federal law also sets strict rules on how you handle and dispose of credit reports.