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, September 28, 2010

Large DOJ Settlement Shows How Waiting List Mismanagement Can Prove Costly

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Monday that it reached a $270,000 fair housing settlement with the Housing Authority for the city of Royston, Georgia (RHA), which owns and manages seven low-income apartment complexes there.

According to the DOJ's press release, the RHA maintained a waiting list for its apartments but would often ignore the list in favor of selecting prospects based on race. The DOJ also alleges that the RHA steered black prospects to certain apartments or complexes and offered them inferior rental terms and conditions than prospects of other races.

In addition to the creation of a $270,000 fund, which is intended to compensate tenants and prospects who claim to have been harmed by the RHA's alleged race-based discrimination, the settlement allows tenants who believe they were unfairly assigned to one RHA complex based on race to request a transfer.

When a building has no vacancies, putting prospects on a waiting list is a great way to help ensure people get apartments in a fair manner. But, as this case shows, a waiting list that's not strictly enforced can become a liability trap. Whether the true reason behind a waiting-list exception is racism or mere disorganization, landlords who make such exceptions are likely to find themselves with some explaining to do.

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