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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fair Housing Helper™ Ushers in 2010 With Fairhousingresources.com

Fair Housing Helper™, owner of Fair Housing Blog, is pleased to announce the launch this week of Fair Housing Resources by Fair Housing Helper™, or Fairhousingresources.com.

Designed for multifamily professionals, tenants, apartment hunters, and others seeking reliable information about housing discrimination laws in the United States, the site offers visitors access to an abundance of useful information directly from the home page.

At Fairhousingresources.com, you can find:
  • Information on Fair Housing Helper™ training and Fair Housing Blog by Fair Housing Helper™, with a scrolling showcase of the latest blog posts.

  • The full text of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which you can search or browse by section.

  • The official FHA regulations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

  • The latest fair housing news from across the Web.

  • Information on state fair housing laws, including a handy, interactive "Protected Classes Tool."

  • Links to important fair housing cases and enforcement efforts by HUD and the Department of Justice.

  • A summary chart of related laws, including descriptions and links to the laws and their regulations.

  • Key government guidance, from reasonable accommodations to terrorism concerns.

  • Links to topical articles written by Fair Housing Helper™'s founder and president, Ron Leshnower, for the Apartment Living / Rental site of About.com, a part of The New York Times Company.

  • Industry jobs and events listings, with the ability to post your own jobs and events for free.
Fairhousingresources.com is the third addition to the Fair Housing Helper™ family of Web sites. Fairhousinghelper.com offers training for multifamily professonals, and Fairhousingblog.com is dedicated to covering a variety of interesting, timely housing discrimination issues while inviting thoughtful discussion.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New HUD Charge Shines Spotlight on Interracial Dating

"I do not have any blacks on my property and I am aware that we have a biracial president, but no federal law will make me rent to anyone I do not want to."

No federal law other than the Fair Housing Act (FHA), that is. The manager of a trailer home in Alabama reportedly made this statement to an investigator from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), following accusations of race and color discrimination from tenants.

While the owner and manager had no issue with the race of their tenants (who were white), they apparently were perturbed by the fact that one of the tenants had a black boyfriend who visited her in the trailer during a college break. After making things difficult for the tenants by disconnecting the water during his visit, the owner and manager finally just ordered the tenants to leave.

Having concluded its investigation, HUD announced yesterday that it has charged the owner and manager with violating the FHA's ban on race and color discrimination. The two will now have a chance to defend themselves before an administrative law judge. In addition to compensatory damages and a civil penalty, they may face punitive damages for what the HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity labeled an "overt act of discrimination."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Familial Status Definition Shows Its Breadth

If you're wondering what the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) ban on familial status is all about, the short answer is that it aims to protect people who have at least one child under 18 living with them. But the law defines "familial status" broadly, making clear that the protection "shall apply to any person who... is in the process of securing legal custody" of any such child.

A mother of seven in Las Vegas, Nevada is no doubt happy about that. Last December, she applied to rent a four-bedroom house for herself and three of her four biological children (the fourth being away at school). The landlord's broker thought that would be fine. But when the mother then added that she's in the process of adopting three more children, the broker said enough's enough — even though the house apparently could legally accommodate them all.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently charged the landlords and the broker with familial status discrimination. They now risk that an administrative law judge may order them to pay damages and a civil penalty.

Interesting to note:
  • The landlord instead rented the house to a family with one child. So, this case also illustrates that it's possible to violate the FHA's ban on familial status discrimination even if a landlord denies one family with children in favor of another.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

GAO Says DOJ Should Indicate Reasons for Rejecting Fair Housing Complaints

On December 3, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on how the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Civil Rights Division can increase its enforcement efforts. After reviewing the Division's activities between 2001 and 2007, the GAO recommends that the Division alter its Interactive Case Management System (ICM) to include a field for capturing the reasons that fair housing and other matters are closed. Taking this step would strengthen the Division's ability to account for its efforts, the GAO argues.

The GAO report also noted that most (456 of 517) of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) matters the Division handled were initiated under the DOJ's "pattern or practice" authority, primarily alleging discrimination on the basis of race or disability and involving land use/zoning/local government or rental issues. Most (250 of 269) of the cases filed as plaintiff included an FHA claim. These FHA cases primarily involved rental issues (146) and alleged discrimination on the basis of disability (115) or race (70).