The Fair Housing Act was created in 1968 to protect the civil liberties of people seeking somewhere to live. In short, it dictates that a person cannot be denied a home based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, pregnancy, or disability.
Some of the most-common examples of Fair Housing Act violations include:
Refusing to rent to someone for any reason aside from the fact they do not meet your qualification criteria. Simply stated… don’t discriminate. Deny or approve the prospect’s application based only on your defined authorization guidelines.
Failing to offer uniform terms and privileges to all residents. If you’re advertising a First Month Rent Free special, you can’t extend that deal only to a few residents while denying others. In doing so, you could wind up facing a discrimination lawsuit. The surest way to prevent any HUD discrimination complaint is, obviously, to not discriminate in the first place. The next best route is to always document what price you offered, what units were shown, any sales or specials available at the time, as well as the rental and deposit fees you reviewed with the prospective tenant. This can help reinforce the fact that you acted in accordance with Fair Housing standards in the event that your actions are ever called into question.
Offering equal privileges also is applicable regarding your pet policies. You cannot allow one renter to have a dog, and deny another renter in the same property a similar opportunity (providing they equally meet your pet specifications.) Having a No Pets rule is acceptable… as long as it is uniformly upheld. The same principle is applicable regarding No Smoking restrictions.
Not accommodating people with disabilities. There are several requirements that fall under this category. One is withholding/denying a disabled resident’s request for an assigned parking spot. Even if you believe that your designated handicapped parking spots are more than acceptable, you might want to consult with legal counsel before openly denying a tenant’s request for a reserved parking spot that is closer to their doorstep.
Because hoarding is now defined as a mental disability, hoarders are currently protected under the Fair Housing Act. Make sure you’re up to date on the term reasonable accommodation, as well as the best practices for dealing with residents who suffer from the devastating effects of hoarding.
Another commonly violated rule regarding disability is regarding the use of service animals. Service animals are not viewed as pets. So even properties that have a no pet policy, must make reasonable accommodation and allow for the resident to have full use of their housing with help from their service animal.
Being aware of the most-common Fair Housing Act violations and working to be compliant with applicable laws will go a long way in keeping you out of hot water. Research and review the Fair Housing Act guidelines and dedicate training time to keep your staff well-informed too.
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