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.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Artifice Forces Landlord's Hand on Renting to Families With Children

A man called the managers of an Outagamie County, Wisconsin apartment he saw advertised to inquire about its availability. Apparently, after the man told one of the managers that he and his wife had children, she allegedly refused to show him the apartment.

Acting on suspicion, the man's wife decided also to call the manager about seeing the apartment, but making a point to say (inaccurately) that she and her husband had no children. Not only did the manager immediately schedule a showing, but she pressured her to see the available apartment right away, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Further testing by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council uncovered more evidence of discrimination based on familial status, which is illegal under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). For example, the manager reportedly told one tester that she's "looking for the perfect renter, meaning I don't want a lot of kids" and that she charges families with children a higher security deposit.

All this led HUD to issue a Charge of Discrimination, announced October 21, against the managers and the owner, meaning they'll need to defend themselves against alleged Fair Housing Act violations before an administrative law judge.

Rental Reneging Reveals Racial Rancor

Landlords who don't want to rent to people of a particular race normally turn away the prospects early on. But owners of a single-family three-bedroom house in Gibsonton, Florida agreed to rent their house to a black mother and her three children and let them move in without incident. Two days after the move, however, the landlords apparently had a change of heart and reacted in a way that, the tenants claim, violated the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) ban on race-based discrimination.

According to the Charge of Discrimination issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and announced this month, the landlords refused to accept the family's rent payment, awoke the children and ordered them out of the house in their night clothes while their mother was at work, and changed the locks. Fortunately, a relative later found the children under a highway underpass, in shock, exhausted, and visibly upset, according to the HUD Charge.

When the mother learned about what happened, she contacted the police to report it and regain access to the house. The landlords allegedly hurled racial epithets at the mother, expressing their disbelief that she called the police.

Following the HUD Charge, an administrative law judge will hear the case to determine whether the family should be compensated for claimed damages, including economic losses, out-of-pocket expenses, emotional and physical distress, loss of a housing opportunity, embarassment, humiliation, substantial inconvenience, and more.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Survey Indicates More Hispanics Fear Unfair Discrimination

A new national survey of 1,375 Hispanic adults shows that 61% of respondents say that discrimination against Hispanics in housing and other areas is a "major problem," up from 54% from a similar survey in 2007.

The survey, published Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center, a product of the Pew Research Center, also indicates what may be behind this increased concern. When asked about the most important factor leading to discrimination, a plurality of 36% of respondents cited immigration status, up from a minority of 23% who responded that way in 2007. (In the earlier survey, a plurality of 46% respondents identified language skills as the biggest cause of discrimination against Hispanics.)

Despite the increase in concern about discrimination, the survey notes that there has been no increase in recent years in the share of Hispanics who report that they or someone they know have been targets of discrimination or have been stopped by authorities and questions about their immigration status.

Do you think there's a political backlash against illegal immigration that's hurting Hispanics across the United States, regardless of their immigration status? What other groups of people, if any, do you believe may be experiencing greater discrimination (or, at least, increased concern over discrimination) now, and why?

What do you think?