Fair Housing vs. Unfair Housing

Do you know the difference?

Knowing the difference between fair housing and unfair housing isn't as obvious as you might think — even if you have the best intentions. This blog aims to present a variety of important and interesting fair housing issues. If you're an apartment professional, avoid costly mistakes by reading the stories of others who learned compliance lessons the hard way. (For the easy way, click here.) If you live in an apartment, get familiar with your rights when it comes to housing discrimination.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New for Fair Housing Month 2014

April is Fair Housing Month, and Fair Housing Helper is striving to make learning about rights and responsibilities under housing discrimination laws easier and more accessible:

A enhanced experience with the redesigned FairHousingResources.com.

Fair Housing Helper yesterday unveiled the newly redesigned FairHousingResources.com, to coincide with the start of Fair Housing Month. The redesigned site offers users an enhanced experience while presenting an even greater range of topical resources, including its popular "Protected Classes Tool," which offers a handy pull-down menu of additional protected classes by state.

Landlords, property managers, leasing agents, and staff who need to comply with fair housing laws can use FairHousingResources.com to access primary sources and other key information, such as the full text of the Fair Housing Act and its regulations, government guidance, related laws, and more.

Apartment hunters and renters also can visit the site to get familiar with how the law protects them against housing discrimination, including topics such as identifying illegal steering, apartment hunting with a disability, displaying religious decor in an apartment, and what to do if you think you've been discriminated against.

Read the press release, "Apartment Professionals and Renters Can Learn About Fair Housing Law With Newly Redesigned FairHousingResources.com," for more information and check out the new design at FairHousingResources.com.

Fair housing compliance training in a convenient and affordable eBook.

In anticipation of Fair Housing Month, Fair Housing Helper recently launched the eBook version of Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals, its popular compliance product aimed at helping landlords, property managers, leasing agents, and staff comply with the Fair Housing Act and related housing discrimination laws.

The new Kindle eBook edition retails for $9.99, 50% less than the $19.99 list price for the paperback, which is available on Amazon.com and other online retailers. Apartment professionals can now train using their tablet, smartphone, or even a PC or Mac, as well as on a Kindle device, thanks to free Kindle apps.
Extra savings: Readers who have already purchased the paperback version from Amazon.com can pick up the new Kindle edition for only $2.99 under the new Kindle MatchBook program. New readers who purchase both the print and Kindle versions from Amazon.com also get the Kindle edition for $2.99.
Read the press release, "Fair Housing Training on an iPad? New eBook Makes Discrimination Training Even More Convenient and Affordable," for more information and visit FairHousingHelper.com.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Retirement Community Accused of Penalizing Renters for Needing Motorized Wheelchairs

A Virginia retirement community has been hit with a fair housing complaint for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) ban on discrimination based on disability.

According to a press release issued Wednesday by Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME), the organization filing the complaint, The Towers Retirement Community in Richmond unfairly and illegally places substantial burdens on renters who need to use a motorized wheelchair in connection with a disability.

Specifically, HOME claims that the community requires renters to commit to an additional $1,500 security deposit as well as obtain liability insurance for motorized wheelchairs, essentially making such renters pay for having a disability. Also, renters who use motorized mobility devices are apparently barred from using the community's transportation services—even though they're reportedly required to pay a monthly transportation fee as part of their monthly rent. In addition, HOME alleges that the community requires renters wishing to use a motorized wheelchair to get their disability assessed by the community's staff.

Planning Something for Fair Housing Month?

It's February, which means Fair Housing Month is almost here. (For more information, see "Fair Housing Month: Why April Is Fair Housing Month.")

Are you a member of an organization that's hosting a poster contest, training seminar, or other event to commemorate the passage of the Fair Housing Act and promote housing discrimination awareness in April?

If so, feel free to e-mail the details (including any links) to info@fairhousinghelper.com and we'll mention it as part of our Fair Housing Month coverage on Fair Housing Blog by Fair Housing Helper.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Denver Fair Housing Audit Reveals 'Pervasive' Discrimination

The Denver Metro Fair Housing Center (DMFHC) yesterday released the findings of its audit into fair housing practices, in a report entitled “Access Denied: A Report on Rental Housing Discrimination in the Denver Metro Area.”

The DMFHC's report is based on testing conducted in late 2013, in which white prospects were paired with black or Latino testers, and testers without children were paired with testers with children.

According to the report, apartment hunters are likely to encounter discrimination 91% of the time if they are Latino and 67% of the time if they are black. Also, a bias against families with children was present 73% of the time. DMFHC Executive Director Arturo Alvarado said the audit's “dramatic results" reveal that fair housing compliance "is a pervasive problem in our community and that our public officials must take action now to enforce fair housing laws and publicly condemn housing discrimination.”

Although this audit focused on race, national origin, and familial status, three of the seven protected classes under the Fair Housing Act, the report also cautions against noncompliance with other protected classes under federal as well as state housing discrimination laws.

For example, in its recommendations, the report advises housing providers to implement non-discriminatory policies, noting that:
One example of a policy that is unlawful under state law is an application fee discount offered to married couples only. Because marital status and sexual orientation are protected classes in Colorado, providing a discount to married people that is not available to singles or unmarried couples is an example of discrimination in terms, conditions, or privileges of rental.
You can download the full report here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

National Association of Realtors® Adds Gender Identity to Ethical Code

Members of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) who discriminate based on gender identity are now in violation of their ethical code, following a vote conducted on Monday, November 11, which added the protected class, according to a report from REALTOR® Magazine.

This is the second time that the REALTORS® Code of Ethics was amended to include a protected class that's not a part of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Two years ago, NAR members voted to add sexual orientation as a protected class to their ethical code (see "NAR Bars Sexual Orientation Discrimination… Is Congress Next?").

Is the recent addition of sexual orientation and now gender identity a sign of where federal legislation might be headed?

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Seven Years After Its Enactment, a Local Fair Housing Law Has Its Day in Court

A New York court judge ruled that owners and managers of a Buffalo apartment complex are liable for violating the city's fair housing law banning discrimination based on source of income. At issue was whether a prospective tenant can legally be turned away because she holds housing choice (Section 8) vouchers.

The judge ruled that such action violates the ban because landlords in that city can't base tenancy decisions on where a prospect would get the rent money owed under their lease.

The 2013 ruling is the first for this civil rights ordinance, which was enacted in 2006, according to a report from WNYmedia.net. The court will rule on damages in a separate proceeding.

Should federal law include "source of income" as a protected class? Is it fair for landlords to not have a choice when it comes to housing choice vouchers?

What do you think?

Important to note:
  • In addition to cities, many states include protected classes not found in the Fair Housing Act. Check out the "Protected Classes Tool" at fairhousingresources.com to find out the situation in your state.
  • As an owner or manager, it's important to get familiar with state and local differences in fair housing law when running a building in a different part of the country. In this case, the apartment complex was owned by absentee owners and managers based in California, according to the report. Learn more compliance tips by reading the new Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals.