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(Here is an excerpt from some of Mr. Zehring's training curriculum)

The Application Process...You Pick Your Problems

Stopping Crime at the Front Door

The simple fact that management has a rental application suggests that management has the right to select who lives in a manufactured housing rental community. This is an advantage that all housing communities do not enjoy. But management will enjoy this advantage only if they use it to their advantage.

Residents of “single family home” neighborhoods have no control over who buys a house and moves in next door to them. The management and owners of a manufactured housing community need to understand that no one can move into their rental community without asking for, and receiving permission.

This gives managers and owners an awful lot of responsibility. And therefore, liability. Management has a responsibility to tenants in their community. In fact, virtually everywhere in the United States, management has a legal duty to provide a safe environment for their tenants to live in.

If management does not live up to that responsibility, management may possibly be held liable for the criminal action of others. For example: if property management allows a convicted sex offender to move into the rental community and the offender molests a child on the premises, management may be held civilly liable for his actions.

A few basic screening procedures may enable management to relieve that liability while at the same time fulfilling their responsibility to their tenants.

Understanding Fair Housing Laws

Simply put, the Federal Fair Housing Laws strictly prohibit any discrimination against protected classes. Some of those protected classes include, but are not limited to:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Familial status
  • Color
  • Gender
  • National origin

What many people are not aware of is that EVERYONE is in a protected class! If you think about it, everyone has a race, a color, a gender, a national origin, etc. No one can discriminate against any applicant based on their color, regardless of what color they are. No one can be denied residency based on their national origin, regardless of where they were born.

Tenant Criteria

Since the fair housing laws protect every applicant, management has one of two choices.

1.  Accept every one who applies. I do not recommend that management does this. (Management must be able to justify why they refused an applicant. In a discrimination case, the management has the burden of to prove their action was not discriminatory.)

-- or --

2.  Scrutinize applications to be certain they meet acceptable rental criterion. In order to justify denying an application, management will have to show that they did not discriminate against one of the protected classes in their decision. One of the best ways to protect against fair housing complaints is to have written rental criteria that every applicant must meet when filling out the rental application.

This written criterion serves two purposes. First, it serves, as a pre-screening tool to weed out the applicants that will not qualify to live in the rental community. Second, it gives management set standards that every applicant must meet. This provides management the proper justification to deny an application.

In most states, management has the freedom and responsibility to determine what the criteria will be. Management can make it as lax or strict as they want, as long as they do not discriminate against one of the protected classes. Familial status may not apply the same in a 55+ (or adult) community.

It’s Worth The Effort

Property managers and owners have differing views on how, or if, they should screen prospective residents. Some have rigid guidelines; others feel that calling references or checking prospective residents is not worth the effort.

Remember that management actually picks their problem residents. No one can move into their community unless management allows them to live there. The severity of the problems management has in their community will depend on the quality of their criteria, rental application and background investigation.

Use The Crime Free Lease Addendum in the Application

This is one example of a Crime Free Addendum, which is signed by rental applicants.


In consideration for the execution or renewal of a lease of the space identified in the lease or rental agreement, Manager or owner and Tenant agree as follows:

Resident, any member(s) of the resident’s household, guests, or any other person affiliated with the resident, at or near the resident premises:

1. Will not engage in the unlawful manufacturing, selling, using, storing, keeping or giving of an illegal or controlled substance as defined in A.R.S. 13-3451, at any locations, whether on or near the space.

2. Will not engage in any illegal activity, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Prostitution as defined in A.R.S. 13-3211
  • Criminal street gang activity as defined in A.R.S. 13-105 & 13-2308
  • Assault as defined in A.R.S. 13-1203
  • Threatening or intimidating as defined in A.R.S. 13-1202
  • Criminal damage as defined in A.R.S. 13-1602
  • Disorderly conduct as defined in A.R.S. 13-2904
  • Facilitation of a crime as defined in A.R.S. 13-1004

3. A single violation of any of the provisions of this addendum will be deemed a serious violation, and a material and an irreparable noncompliance, and will be good cause for immediate termination of the lease under A.R.S. 33-1476, as provided in A.R.S. 33-1485. Unless otherwise provided by law, proof of violation will not require a criminal conviction, but will be by a preponderance of the evidence.

4. In case of conflict between the provisions of this addendum and any other provisions of the lease, the provisions of this addendum will govern.

5. This Lease Addendum is incorporated into the lease executed or renewed this day between Manager or Owner and Tenant.

6. I hereby authorize management to use all police generated reports as direct evidence in all eviction hearings against.

___________________________  Date: ___________
Tenant signature

___________________________   Date: ___________
Tenant signature

___________________________   Date: ___________
Property Manager’s signature

Name of property: ______________________________


Management should have a set criterion or standards that they want the residents of their manufactured housing community to meet. The application form is their chance to gather information about their future residents. By making their application clear, concise and thorough, management will be able to make an informed decision and ensure that their criterion is being met.

It is imperative that management carefully reads the entire application before accepting it, making sure that every question is fully answered. If the applicant discloses information that does not meet their rental criteria the application should probably be denied.

After accepting the application their job is only half done. The application is of no use to management if they do not carefully screen or verify the information. Management should take the time themselves, or hire someone qualified to do a thorough screening and background check on all of the information received.

Suggested Criminal History Questions:

Management should have a keen interest in the people that want to live in their rental community. No one wants to live next door to a person with a violent or extensive criminal history.

As part of the application process management should ask the applicant, (and any other people who will be living in the home), about their criminal history. If they refuse to disclose this information to the management, they have the option not to rent to them.

It is recommended that management get as much detailed information as they can. To assist management in gathering this information, here are sample questions that may be asked on the application:

Have you, or any member of your household:

1. Ever been arrested, cited, prosecuted, plead guilty to, or been convicted of a crime?

2. Ever been placed on probation, parole, or any other release from jail, or prison?

3. Ever been or currently are a member of a gang?

4. Is there a current warrant for the applicant or any members of their household?

5. Are applicants or any members of their household currently involved in any criminal activity?

6. Ever been evicted or had a forcible detainer filed against you?

7. Ever moved to avoid eviction or because of problems with other tenants or a landlord?

Management should be sure the applicants explain all “Yes” answers in detail. At a minimum management should ask if the applicant or any person living in the home has ever been convicted of a crime. Management should inquire about all crimes, not just felonies. Many of the crimes that will cause management the most problems are not felonies. I do not recommend you discriminate against applicants based on an arrest. This is especially true if the charges were ultimately dropped.

Criminal Background Checks

Many credit reporting agencies will offer to search local or county court records for criminal data pertaining to their prospective tenants. While many of these companies make promising claims, the results they get may vary as greatly as the costs.

It is important to "shop around" for the best results, using a control group of names currently being processed. In most cases, management will see the best results from companies that use licensed private investigators, and search multiple courts and jurisdictions.

Material Falsification

In most states, material falsification of the information provided on the rental application, will allow the management to serve a notice to the resident, terminating the rental agreement.

If the residents claims the misinformation was an “honest mistake” but the corrected information they provide would have disqualified the applicant as well, the manager probably should proceed with the written notice.

If the corrected information would have allowed the resident to qualify, the manager should probably void the notice. Most states allow for an eviction against a resident who has given untrue or misleading information on the application pertaining to such things as:

  • Criminal records
  • Pets
  • Prior eviction records
  • Income of prospective resident
  • Current criminal activity
  • Social security number
  • Number of occupants in dwelling unit
  • Current employment

Refusing An Application

It is important that management keeps documentation for the applications that they have refused to approve. This documentation should be kept in the application file and retained for future use. Along with documentation, management must be consistent in following the defined criteria and standards they have set for their manufactured housing community.

Remember that the Fair Housing Laws do not say you have to turn your I.Q. back 30 points, nor do they require that you have to rent to everyone who applies. The Fair Housing Laws simply prohibit discrimination based on the applicable protected classes in your area.


  • This website is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Click here.