Legal Issues & Renting

How to rent if you’re an immigrant

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The Fair Housing Act protects the rights of legal immigrants to apply for a rental unit. This act, first adopted in 1968, has been updated a couple of times to provide residents in the United States fair opportunities to rent or purchase homes.

Under the Fair Housing Act, immigrants can apply for rental units and landlords are not allowed to discriminate against them based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap. This discrimination can include refusing to rent a unit, changing terms of a lease or rental rates based on discrimination, or not honoring lease agreements already in place.

What may hurt legal immigrants in attempting to rent is a lack of rental history. Landlords often check rental history reports to learn more about potential tenants. In this case, immigrants can try the following suggestions to build a stronger case in favor of landlords renting to them.

* Show proof of employment – Having a steady income is a good indicator that you’ll be paying your rent on time and in full. Ask your employer for an employment agreement, or bring to the interview several paycheck stubs.

* Bring recommendations – If you’ve joined a religious institution, ask the spiritual leader to write you a recommendation. Do the same with your manager at work. Having several favorable recommendations shows the potential landlord that you’re settled in the community.

* Proof of legal status – Landlords want to ensure that you are in the country legally, so have a copy of your visa, green card or other immigration paperwork handy to demonstrate this.