Fair Housing Made Simple

by Andrea West

Posted on 2017-07-31 10:48:41

We have mentioned Fair Housing several times throughout the blog as it’s an important statute that every landlord should understand. Here, we are going to explain what the Fair Housing Act is, what parts of it apply to renting out housing, and how this affects landlords.

What is the Fair Housing Act?
‘The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting… The prohibitions specifically cover discrimination because of

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Presence of children’
  • Source of income
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identification

Statements That Apply to Landlords
There are several prohibitions set in place. Landlords and property managers are not allowed to

  • Make housing unavailable
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions, or privileges
  • Falsely deny that housing is available
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference

based on any of the discriminations listed above.

As with most legislations, there are some exceptions listed-

  • Owner-occupied buildings of no more than four units
  • Single-family housing rented without the use of a broker (both of the above not exempt from the advertising stipulation)
  • Housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy members
  • Buildings/communities qualified as housing for older persons (allowed to discriminate familial status and age only)

How This Affects
It would be difficult to cover absolutely everything, but here are some useful points-

Marketing - If you read anything above, you’ll notice that there is a comment about advertising. While it is okay to specify what income range is acceptable to rent out your available unit, it is not okay to state that you won’t accept anyone with children under the age of five.

Rental Applications - This is the stage where violations to the Fair Housing Act will be the most obvious. As with your advertisements, you cannot make unfair stipulations on your tenant application forms under 'rental criteria.' While you are in the process of going through applicants, deciding who your next resident is going to be, you cannot make any decisions based on the discriminations listed above. This means there are certain questions you are not allowed to ask your applicants. If you are interviewing applicants, review the questions you want to ask carefully to make sure they do not link back to a Fair Housing violation. Asking someone’s age is a common and seemingly harmless question, but counts as one of those questions you are not allowed to ask.

Residency - You need to treat all of your residents the same. If you let one resident use a gas grill for a family gathering, then all of your residents should be allowed the same privilege. Remember, you cannot set different terms, conditions, privileges, or provide different services or facilities from one resident to the next. A resident could easily link it back to a Fair Housing violation if you try.

Information for this article was taken from the HUD Fair Housing website. You can also read the actual Fair Housing Act statute to be sure you don’t miss anything with the simplified version provided here.