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. 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 — even with good intentions — 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, as well as your options for seeking justice.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New "Fair Housing Tips in Less Than a Minute" Video Series Offers Quick Compliance Insights for Landlords

Fair Housing Helper is pleased to announce the launch of a new video series aimed at offering landlords, property managers, and other housing professionals quick guidance on how to comply with fair housing law.

The series, entitled "Fair Housing Tips In Less Than a Minute," was launched with five tips, covering topics such as understanding protected classes to banning pets at an apartment.

You can now view the complete "Fair Housing Tips in Less Than a Minute" video series on YouTube.

Check this blog for announcements of new tips as they're added to the series. Plus, for more helpful information about housing discrimination, visit fairhousingresources.com.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Standing to Sue Under the Fair Housing Act: What's an 'Aggrieved Person'?

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) bars landlords, property managers, and other housing professionals across the United States from engaging in certain discriminatory acts against prospects and tenants. But when a violation has allegedly occurred, who, exactly, is entitled to file a complaint under the FHA?

Clearly, a tenant in the middle of her lease term would have standing to sue her landlord for alleged discrimination under the FHA. But consider the situation of a stranger who sits next to this tenant on a plane, hears her story, and sympathizes. Would this stranger be able to sue the landlord for what the tenant claims the landlord did to her?

You probably won't be surprised to learn that the answer is no. After all, the stranger has nothing to do with the case.

So, a tenant under a written lease may sue her landlord, but someone who has no connection to an alleged discriminatory act cannot.

While these examples may seem obvious or sensible, what about all the situations in between?

The FHA is broad when it comes to a person's rights under the law and standing to bring a fair housing claim. The requirement is that the complainant be an "aggrieved person," which the FHA (in Section 3602) defines as someone who "(1) claims to have been injured by a discriminatory housing practice; or (2) believes that such person will be injured by a discriminatory housing practice that is about to occur." (As for the term "discriminatory housing practice," the same section defines it as "an act that is unlawful under section 3604, 3605, 3606, or 3617 of this title.") You can check out these definitions by visiting this Fair Housing Helper link.

This means that you don't have to be the actual person who is being discriminated against in order to be able to bring a claim. Say that two roommates go to look for an apartment and they're turned away because one of them has a disability or is black or Muslim. Both that person's rights and the other roommate's rights are infringed under the FHA, and either one or both may sue. The roommate who was not actually discriminated against has standing because such a person is clearly harmed by the alleged act of discrimination against the other roommate (unlike the example of the stranger on the plane).

In one famous early case, Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance, 409 U.S. 205 (1972), the connection was even less direct. The court held that the plaintiffs had standing even though they had not themselves been the direct victims of discrimination. In that case, the plaintiffs were white yet they claimed that the landlord's alleged racial discrimination against nonwhites caused them harm because they "lost the benefits of living in an integrated community."

So, the key to being able to bring a complaint under the FHA is that you have to have suffered harm (or believe you're about to suffer harm). There is no requirement that an aggrieved person have a written lease or even be a current tenant. Tenants who live on a month-to-month basis with no written lease, roommates who aren't listed on a lease, applicants for an apartment (whether to a new or existing lease), and even prospective tenants who haven't yet applied for an apartment (but perhaps saw an allegedly discriminatory advertisement) all have standing.

That said, be sure to keep in mind that having standing to sue under the FHA doesn't mean you'll automatically succeed with a fair housing claim. A judge may still rule against you for a number of reasons, such as that your filing isn't timely, that there's insufficient evidence of illegal discrimination, or that the alleged discriminatory act actually isn't a violation of the FHA. But, if you don't have standing, you don't have a chance.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Black Friday Sale on Fair Housing Helper eBook Starts Today

Black Friday is almost here, but Black Friday savings on Fair Housing Helper starts today.

Landlords, property managers, and other apartment professionals: Now's your chance to get on top of fair housing compliance...

Download Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals for Kindle for just $5.99, a savings of 40% off the regular price of $9.99. Just visit the Amazon.com page by clicking here.

You don't need an actual Kindle device to enjoy a Kindle eBook. You can read Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals on your iPad, smartphone, or even your computer, thanks to free Kindle apps.

Visit www.fairhousinghelper.com to learn more about what Kirkus Reviews calls a "useful, easy-to-read guide for those who want to learn more about complying with U.S. fair housing law," which was recently selected as a Finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards.

Plus, when you finish the book, follow the simple instructions to receive a complimentary, personalized fair housing training certificate and a free badge to use on your Web site or marketing materials.

The clock is ticking on this limited-time offer, which expires on Black Friday... Click here to download Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals for Kindle today for only $5.99.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook Decries Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Housing

Apple CEO Tim Cook penned a column today in Bloomberg Businessweek in which he publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation. "I'm proud to be gay," Cook wrote, "and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

In his column, the chief of the company known for its "Think Different" campaign noted that although "America is moving toward marriage equality," many laws across the country still allow people to treat others differently because of their sexual orientation. "There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay," Cook pointed out.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) has helped thousands of people across the United States seek justice and compensation for illegal housing discrimination. But the FHA protects people based on only seven protected classes — race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.

Many states, cities, and towns have enacted their own fair housing law that includes additional protected classes, such as sexual orientation. (For a scrollable list of additional protected classes in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, check out the "Protected Classes Tool" at fairhousingresources.com.) Also, new federal regulations bar housing providers who receive HUD funding or have loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration from discriminating based on "actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status."

Despite these advancements, Tim Cook's observation is correct. In much of the United States, 46 years after the FHA's enactment, landlords can still legally evict tenants — or refuse to rent to them in the first place — based on knowledge or suspicion of their sexual orientation.

Is this right? Should it change? Will it?

What do you think?

Learn more about fair housing compliance at FairHousingHelper.com.