By Mark B. Zinman, Zona Law Group P.C. 

Question: I saw your fair housing presentation at the April AZREIA meeting. When dealing with applicants, can I collect a few applicants before I complete a background check and select the best one?

Answer: Our advice is that you should run background checks on applicants as they come in and approve and accept the first applicant that meets your rental criteria. Any variation you do from such a standard, creates the potential for it to be attacked as a violation of fair housing. For fair housing purposes, you want to have an objective standard that anyone could enforce, were they in your shoes. Imagine if the attorney general reviewed the applicants that you received – you would want to be 100% sure that they would pick the same applicant you would. Picking the first qualified applicant, ensures this would happen. Any other standard creates the potential liability that your motives were based on an improper reason, whether intentional or not.