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.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Fair Housing Helper addresses these situations with an online fair housing compliance training program aimed at helping multifamily professionals avoid violations — so they can focus their time and money on growing their business.
Fair Housing Month may be coming to an end, but compliance concerns last all year round. Sign up (with no obligation) at fairhousinghelper.com to be among the first to learn about the new training when it launches and receive special notification of savings.
That wraps up this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com. Hopefully, you found the series interesting and thought-provoking. You can read the press release for more information, if you wish, or access all blog posts in this series.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
If you think that covers a lot of situations, you're right. But many individuals, advocacy groups, and politicians argue that the law doesn't go far enough. Several states, cities, and towns have succeeded in extending fair housing protection by including additional protected classes in their own anti-discrimination laws, such as:
- sexual orientation;
- marital status;
- source of income;
- military status;
- personal appearance; and
- political affiliation.
Do you believe the FHA should be amended to include additional protected classes? If so, which protected classes would you like to see added? How fair is fair housing if many types of housing discrimination are still legal under federal law?
What do you think?
Return tomorrow for the thirtieth and final part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The federal agency responsible for investigating the facts and handling your claim is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If HUD determines there's reasonable cause to believe you've been disriminated against, your case will normally be heard by an impartial HUD administrative law judge. However, if you or the other party prefers, your dispute may be litigated in federal court, in which case the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will file the complaint on your behalf.
The DOJ also has the authority to sue parties who may be engaged in a "pattern or practice" of discrimination, or where a denial of rights to a group of people raises an important public issue.
Return tomorrow for the twenty-ninth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
If you're not familiar with the FHA or you could use a refresher, why not take a moment of this Fair Housing Month to look these over?
- The first brochure, "Equal Opportunity for All," covers all the basics in 17 pages, including an outline of what the FHA bans as well as its additional protections for families with children and people with disabilities, the complaint process, and the role of HUD and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
- The second brochure, "Are You a Victim of Housing Discrimination?" takes you step by step through completing the form to file a fair housing complaint with HUD. At the end, you'll also find a handy bulleted summary of how the FHA protects you.
Monday, April 26, 2010
What would you say is the most significant legislative accomplishment to follow the FHA's passage in 1968? Submit your answer by taking our Fair Housing Month poll (see the right-hand side of this page, toward the bottom). Also, feel free to leave any additional comments you may have here.
Thanks in advance for participating!
Return tomorrow for the twenty-seventh part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
As housing discrimination issues have evolved over the past 42 years since the enactment of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), several words have emerged that you'll often hear in speeches or conversations, or read in texts about fair housing.
Here are two online fair housing glossaries you can use to get familiar with the definitions of common industry terms:
- "Fair Housing Glossary," by the Idaho Fair Housing Forum, a coalition of stakeholders cooperating and collaborating to provide education and outreach opportunities through the state.
- "Fair Housing Glossary of Terms," by the
Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs, a membership-based, non-profit organization fostering open communities in north suburban Chicago since 1972.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
According to the Association's Web site, Realtors® Care Day was created out of a desire to help people whose financial situation has prevented them from being able to keep up with the upkeep:
"Faced with economic challenges not seen in at least a generation, many over-extended homeowners are forced to choose between paying their mortgage payment or performing basic repairs. While it is impossible to help everyone, we can make a significant impact on our community's elderly and disabled, and others living in unsafe or substandard conditions. Realtors® will be the helping hands that these homeowners desperately need."At last year's inaugural event, the Association reports that over 600 volunteers made improvements to 33 homes, providing an estimated over $250,000 worth of home repairs and adaptive or safety modifications for elderly and disabled residents.
Return tomorrow for the twenty-fifth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Friday, April 23, 2010
But before you rush to file a complaint, take a moment to think about what you're about to do. Formally accusing someone of violating a federal law such as the Fair Housing Act (FHA) is serious business. Not only should you feel confident that you have a strong case, but you'll also want to know that you're mentally and emotionally prepared to see the case through to its end, even if the result turns out to be unfavorable.
Find out what issues you should consider before filing by reading my article, "Before You File a Fair Housing Claim" for About.com.
Return tomorrow for the twenty-fourth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
It's fitting that National Sexual Assault Awareness Month coincides with Fair Housing Month because sexual assault or harrassment is a form of sex discrimination, which the Fair Housing Act (FHA) bans.
For a recent example, just look at today's announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) about a complaint it filed yesterday against a New York City apartment building super and landlord.
The super allegedly sexually harrassed many female tenants at three apartment buildings over a period of years. According to the complaint, the super engaged in sex-based discrimination through his:
- unwanted verbal sexual advances, such as repeatedly soliciting sexual favors in exchange for reduced rent;
- unwanted sexual touching, such as grabbing;
- unwanted sexual language, including yelling obscenities to female tenants who didn't comply with sexual demands;
- conditioning the terms of tenancy on the granting of sexual favors;
- attempting to enter tenants' apartments while inebriated, demanding sex;
- granting and denying tangible housing benefits (such as mail delivery and making repairs) based on sex; and
- taking adverse action (such as threatening eviction) against female tenants who refused or objected to his sexual advances.
The super and the landlord must now defend themselves in court against the DOJ, which seeks monetary damages, civil penalties, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
Return tomorrow for the twenty-third part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
That's what just happened to housing providers in Miami, Florida. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) third announced charge of Fair Housing Month, when a double-amputee veteran requested modifications to his apartment or a transfer to an accessible apartment, he allegedly was refused.
The tenant then contacted the county commissioner's office, which got the landlord to allow a transfer. However, the new apartment wasn't accessible either, and when the tenant moved back to his original apartment, he now found it was missing a stove.
The landlord, unhappy with the fact the tenant got the local government involved, allegedly threatened eviction, leading the tenant to pursue a fair housing complaint with HUD.
The landlord and management company will now need to defend themselves against the charge before a HUD administrative law judge.
Return tomorrow for the twenty-second part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
If you wish to file a complaint against a landlord, property manager, or other party, the easiest and least expensive way is to go through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
HUD lets you file your complaint online (or by mail or phone, if you prefer), and you'll save time and money as well as the need to hire an attorney.
To find out exactly how this process works and what you should expect, read my article, "How to Pursue a Fair Housing Claim Against Your Landlord" for About.com.
Return tomorrow for the twenty-first part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Monday, April 19, 2010
One case is in North Dakota and the other in Rhode Island, but both disputes involve parties that allegedly adopted a formal policy against providing housing to families with children, in clear violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
In the North Dakota case, a condominium complex, unit owners, and a realtor refused to sell or rent to families with children under 14, according to the complaint dated September 8, 2009. The DOJ signed a partial consent order with the unit owners, dated April 8, 2010, in which they agree to pay $7,500 in damages to an aggrieved family and a $2,500 civil penalty.
In Rhode Island, the owner of a single-family house refused to rent to at least two families with children. According to the complaint, the owner even explained to an investigator from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that she "has the right not to rent to families with children." In signing a consent order, also dated April 8, 2010, the owner now agrees to pay $9,500 in damages to two single mothers who were turned away because of their children.
Return tomorrow for the twentieth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Among other accomplishments, Rev. Hooks became the first black judge to sit on the bench of a Tennessee state court since Reconstruction. He was also the first black commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and he served for 15 years as the executive director of the NAACP. More recently, in 2007, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Rev. Hooks' passing in the middle of Fair Housing Month is interesting, considering how much he contributed to fighting housing discrimination across the United States. According to a press release from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Rev. Hooks helped achieve several key legislative successes while serving as chair, among them the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, which strengthened fair housing enforcement and added disability and familial status as protected classes.
Return tomorrow for the nineteenth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
In its brochure, "39 Steps Toward Fair Housing," HUD presents a concise timeline of key issues, cases, developments and achievements that have shaped the path since the FHA's birth (with one step for each year through 2007).
If nothing else, this brief publication reminds us that the FHA wasn't just the end of a long, difficult chapter, but the beginning of a new era that's not without its own set of struggles and challenges.
Return tomorrow for the eighteenth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Friday, April 16, 2010
For example, a child who wants to live in a certain apartment complex but then learns that her parents can't rent there because they have a kid may get upset and even feel guilty. A landlord who steers minority applicants to a certain building in a complex may cause a child to wonder why his friend can't live in one of the vacant apartments on his floor.
To help raise children's awareness and understanding of fair housing, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has created Franklin "The Fair Housing Fox," who offers some answers to questions that may be on children's minds.
If you have kids, consider using Fair Housing Month as an opportunity to show them "10 Things Franklin Wants You to Know."
Return tomorrow for the seventeenth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
When a single mother renting an apartment outside Philadelphia decided to adopt an 11-year-old boy, her landlords allegedly responded by terminating her tenancy, according to HUD's April 15 release. This caused the family to move far away, denying the boy his school, friends, and aunts whom he visited regularly.
Charged with discrimination, the landlords will need to defend their actions in front of a HUD administrative law judge and possibly face thousands of dollars in damages.
Return tomorrow for the sixteenth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
According to a report from WHIZ News, the city's Economic and Community Development Department and Engineer are working on grant-funded projects such as repairing weather-damaged sidewalks across the city that have been rendered unusable for many people with mobility impairments.
The city reportedly aims to finish the improvement projects within the year.
Return tomorrow for the fifteenth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has created a Fair Housing Month poster for 2010 that reads, "Your Community Is a Reflection of You: Reflect on the Value of Fair Housing." The imagery is of a diverse neighborhood, creatively revealed from the perspective of a reflection off mirrored sunglasses on a close-up face.
Check out the poster and see how many protected classes you can identify.
To view past years' Fair Housing Month posters from NAR, visit NAR's Fair Housing Resources page.
Return tomorrow for the fourteenth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The five-minute video reflects HUD's theme for this year's Fair Housing Month, "Time to Act," and features John Trasviña, the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, addressing the American public about the current state of fair housing compliance and enforcement efforts.
Forty-two years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), Mr. Trasviña says that "the fight to end housing discrimination continues," noting that his office as well as state and local partners receive over 10,000 fair housing complaints each year.
"We have a great deal of work to do," he concludes, including making sure that people across the United States "know their rights and responsibilities."
Return tomorrow for the thirteenth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Decades later, it can feel easy to take the FHA and its discrimination bans for granted. But the FHA went on the books at the peak of a turbulent period in American history, and the path toward adopting comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in the housing arena was a hard-fought battle that involved several generations.
Remember this historic day and its origins by taking a moment to read a "History of Fair Housing," courtesy of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Return tomorrow for the twelfth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
The presentation, which will feature a range of speakers from the public and private sector, will conclude with a "Resource Fair," in which attendees will have the opportunity to exchange materials they own related to fair housing, housing advocacy or programs, tenant and landlord services, and social services.
For more information about the Boot Camp, including a schedule and registration, visit BNI's Events page. Note the registration deadline is this Wednesday, April 14.
Return tomorrow for the eleventh part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Here's a sampling of these quizzes. Try them out and see how well you do. Good luck!
- HUD's Fair Housing Quiz. This 10-question quiz from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is based on a national survey of American adults nine years ago that sought to assess public awareness of and support for fair housing law. The questions are in the true-false format, and you'll find the answer key at the bottom of the page. Take this quiz.
- FHRC's Fair Housing Quiz. The Fair Housing Rights Center of Southeastern Pennsylvania (FHRC) offers 14 true-false questions on a range of topics. Answers with helpful explanations follow the questions on the page. Take this quiz.
- FHCO's Fair Housing Quiz. The Fair Housing Council of Oregon's (FHCO) quiz reels you in by asking you to decide whether the "Fair" Housing Act is indeed fair. The answer is interesting and might not be what you expect. As you proceed through the nine questions of this true-false quiz, you'll find more helpful explanations along with each answer. Take this quiz.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
According to HUD's Charge of Discrimination, issued on April 1 and announced on April 6, the owners and managers allegedly engaged in a pattern of unfair treatment of blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and families with children at their five-building apartment complex in Renton.
Testers at the property allegedly revealed that the manager:
- offered the same apartment at a higher rent to black and Hispanic testers than to a white tester;
- offered earlier availability dates and apartments with newer amenities to white testers as compared to black testers;
- asked Hispanic applicants if they illegally purchased Social Security cards or green cards;
- made several discriminatory statements to minority testers, including telling a black tester that she wouldn't tolerate loud parties or "weed smoking on the balcony" and that he was "one of the good ones" because he wears his pants "up on his buttocks";
- said that children couldn't play ball, skateboard, or ride bicycles on the complex's grounds and would need to go to a park.
- directed her staff to show minority applicants apartments with less desirable amenities, such as older carpet, countertops, and appliances;
- steered minority applicants away from the building in which she lived;
- banned her assistant from speaking Spanish to Hispanic applicants, saying, "No, no, no. None of that sh*t. We speak English here";
- told one Asian-American tenant to "go back to India" if he can't use the appliances properly and said to another, "For God's sake, you come from a country with no running water and cook over an open flame."
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Today, the FHA, as amended, includes seven protected classes:
- national origin
- familial status
Get the answers to these and other frequently asked questions on this topic by reading my "Protected Classes FAQ" for About.com.
Return tomorrow for the eighth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
According to the MVFHC's Web site, here's how the mock trial will work:
- It will be based in part on facts from an actual fair housing case.
- It will examine one or more legal issues most commonly associated with fair housing compliance, such as steering, occupancy standards, and reasonable accommodation and modification request denials.
- There will be a presiding judge, with community members and industry players taking on the roles of plaintiffs, defendants, and jurors.
- All workshop attendees will have an opportunity to participate in the mock trial and ask questions about the issues that arise.
- During jury deliberations, participants will engage in a discussion of real-life tricky situations, such as how housing professionals should respond to prospects' questions about a community's demographics.
Return tomorrow for the seventh part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Monday, April 5, 2010
According to a press release from event co-host Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC), the "Get on the Bus" theme evokes the civil rights movement while "The Path Toward Housing Opportunities" reflects the public marches of the time, including one in Frankfort that fair housing advocate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led in 1964.
The Lexington Fair Housing Council and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are co-hosting this event along with KHC.
To sign up for the tour, visit HUD's event page Web site or see the release (cited above) for additional contact information. The event is open to the public, but space is limited.
Return tomorrow for the sixth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
The Fair Housing Council of Riverside County, Inc. is commemorating the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by hosting a Fair Housing Month Festival at its Riverside office, 3933 Mission Inn Ave., on Saturday, April 17. The event, which is open to the public, will offer free food, children's games, a fire engine, and booths with representatives from housing-related organizations.
Perhaps most enticing of all, however, is a free drawing for a prize worth $500 in rent plus one month's paid utility bills.
Return tomorrow for the fifth part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. is one of several government leaders to sign a proclamation declaring April 2010 to be "Fair Housing Month" in his state. In doing so, he noted "the great strides our state and nation have made toward breaking down barriers which impede the rights of all citizens."
If you study the proclamation, you'll notice that Mr. Ritter didn't wait until April to introduce the document (unlike the case with last year's proclamation), but had it signed, sealed, and delivered back on January 27.
The governor's early action on this matter is reminiscent of his state's own fair housing history. In 1959, Colorado became the first state to ban discrimination in private housing. So, by the time the United States caught up with the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in 1968, landlords in the Centennial State had already amassed nearly a decade of compliance experience.
Interesting to note:
- In addition to the federally protected classes under the FHA, Colorado today also bans housing discrimination based on ancestry, marital status, and sexual orientation. (For more information, visit the Web site for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Civil Rights.)
Friday, April 2, 2010
John Trasviña, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at HUD, put it into historical context: "In the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in April 1968, President Johnson moved for passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) to bring the nation forward and together," he said. "Since then, we have made progress but there remains work to be done. It is time to act."
Indeed, progress can be measured by the many apartment hunters, tenants, and others who, thanks to the passage of the FHA, received compensation after complaining of housing injustices. The subsequent amendments to the FHA adding sex, then disability and familial status as protected classes are also widely cited as progressive landmarks.
Assuming Mr. Trasviña is right, then just how much progress have we made since 1968, and how much work remains to be done?
What do you think?
Return tomorrow for the third part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) became law in April 1968, as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (CRA). President Johnson made it official on April 11, one week after the assassination of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for equality in housing.
The FHA was considered landmark legislation, prohibiting many types of discriminatory acts regarding the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, religion, and national origin. The FHA has since been amended to add sex, disability, and familial status to the list of protected classes, as well as to strengthen the law's enforcement mechanism.
Since 1968, April has come to be regarded as a time to remember the FHA and reflect on the rights it gives citizens. Presidents of the United States and governors have issued proclamations over the years declaring April to be "Fair Housing Month." In addition, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which has primary authority for enforcing the FHA, as well as several housing advocacy groups, professional real estate organizations, and schools have sponsored events and poster and essay contests, and have launched awareness campaigns during April to commemorate the historical passage of this major legislation and increase the public's understanding of its many protections.
Return tomorrow for the second part of this special "Fair Housing Month" feature at Fairhousingblog.com.