Legal Hotline Spotlight

Q: I received an application for a rental property I manage. I suspect the applicant may not be a legal resident of the United States. Can I ask for proof of legal status, such as a green card or work visa?  

A: Federal Fair Housing Law and Virginia’s Fair Housing Law do not include as a protected class “immigration status.” However, “national origin” is a protected class. Therefore, if a landlord or a property manager is asking only people of a particular national origin for proof of immigration status, then that could be a fair housing violation. Also, even if a landlord or property manager adopts an objective and neutral policy and the result has a disparate impact on a certain protected class, then there could be a fair housing violation.  

The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act allows landlords and property managers to request a driver’s license (or other similar photo identification) and a social security number or individual taxpayer identification number issued by the IRS. (VA Code § 55.1-1203(B).) This provision is designed to provide a safe harbor for a landlord or property manager to use financial criteria to determine eligibility without running afoul of the fair housing laws. 

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Information accurate as of 03/22/23