Immigration policies in the U.S. are currently under much debate, which also applies to policies regarding renting property to illegal immigrants. Some states have made renting to illegal immigrants illegal for landlords while others have not done so yet. Your responsibilities as a landlord are governed by both your state's immigration policies on renting to illegal immigrants and the federal Fair Housing Act. You should understand state-specific policies on immigration to avoid incurring penalties such as fines or a jail sentence.
Immigration law is an area that is specifically handled by federal government. No federal policy exists that out-rightly prohibits landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. However, the federal statute 8 U.S.C.A. § 1324 prohibits people from knowingly harbouring illegal immigrants in the country. Harbouring includes not only hiding illegal immigrants but providing them with shelter such as rental property. The federal government has to prove that you knowingly rented property to the illegal immigrants.
Responsibility to Report
In some cities in California and Pennsylvania, for example, knowingly renting to illegal immigrants has been prohibited. If you know that your tenants are illegal immigrants, you may have to report them to law enforcement authorities. You may otherwise incur liability for contravening the prohibition on renting to illegal immigrants. However, the state or federal government cannot prosecute you for renting to illegal immigrants unless it can prove that you knowingly rented to them.
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act prevents landlords from discriminating against tenants on the basis of colour, race, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability, which means that normally a landlord should not ask tenants about their immigration status. States that prohibit renting to illegal immigrants may require you to inquire about tenant's immigration status and evict the tenants or face a penalty. The Fair Housing Act provisions against discrimination may be applicable in states that do not out-rightly prohibit renting to illegal immigrants.
Generally, landlords assume the same responsibilities to illegal immigrants as they do for legal immigrants and citizens. These include ensuring that the property is habitable by making prompt repairs on gas, water and electricity. Other responsibilities include providing the tenants with a written notice if the terms of the residential or lease agreement change or if you want to evict them. A written notice is especially important whether or not your state prohibits renting to illegal immigrants.
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- AZREIA: Renting To Illegal Immigrants; What Legal Concerns Should A Landlord Have; Josh Deere; June 9th 2010;
- Report Illegals: Government Agencies Need Your Help In Enforcing US Immigration Laws
- US Department of Housing and Urban Development: Fair Housing-It's Your Right
- JEC: Landlord Tenant Relations; Obligations of the Landlord;
- NPR: Targeting Landlords Who Rent To Illegal Immigrants; Amy Isackson;