Can Landlords Ask for Proof of Immigration Status?

The federal government has almost exclusive authority to address immigration, including undocumented immigration. Currently, there is no federal law that prevents or penalizes landlords from renting to undocumented people. In addition, there is no current Pennsylvania or Delaware municipal law or ordinance prohibiting such rentals, although at least one municipality has tried. The Third Circuit overturned these provisions and held that federal laws, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act, prevailed over such restrictions by a municipality. Focusing on a tenant's ability to meet certain criteria, rather than their immigration status, is the key to finding good tenants and avoiding legal and ethical problems.

Landlords can request proof of income to ensure that the prospective tenant can pay rent on time. It is illegal to refuse to rent to someone solely because of their immigration status, or make any decision that may be influenced by their national origin. As a landlord, it is natural to want to know as much as possible about potential tenants before renting out a property. However, inquiring about a tenant's immigration status can create an uncomfortable or hostile environment and may discourage certain tenants from applying. The best way for landlords to address this issue is to be consistent in their rental application process and apply the same requirements to each applicant. Many landlords prefer to perform a credit check, a criminal background check, and review eviction history reports before deciding to rent to someone.

This helps them find reliable, responsible tenants who pay rent on time and take good care of the property. Ultimately, this is the goal of any landlord.