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.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Update: Washington Complex Owners and Managers Settle Multiple Claims With DOJ

Last April, as part of a special series to commemorate Fair Housing Month, I blogged about the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) first announced charge of Fair Housing Month. The case concerned a Renton, Washington landlord, property management company, and on-site manger who had to defend themselves against alleged violations of four of the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) seven protected classes: race, color, national origin, and familial status.

Since then, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) got involved, and the defendants have now agreed to settle the claims against them, while not admitting any liability or wrongdoing.

On March 8, 2011, a federal court entered a consent order that requires the defendants to pay $85,000 to tenants and prospective tenants who were harmed by the alleged discriminatory practices, pay $25,000 to the government as a civil penalty, create a common recreational area for tenants, including children, provide fair housing training to the defendants' employees, and develop and maintain non-discrimination policies throughout the complex.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rural Fair Housing: What Tops the Complaint List?

A new report from the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), a nonprofit corporation headquartered in Washington, D.C., shows that more complaints under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in rural areas of the United States were filed for disability than for any other protected class.

HAC looked at the 91,030 complaints in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) database from 1998 to 2008, identifying roughly 13% of these complaints as concerning rural communities.

According to the study, 37% of the rural complaints were based on disability, followed by race (29%), familial status (12%), sex (7%), national origin (6%), color and religion (each 2%).

Access the complete results of HAC's report here.

Discrimination Against Unmarried Couples?

Can a landlord legally discriminate against two prospective tenants because they're not married? Not if they're in Michigan.

Michigan is one of a handful of states that protect against marital status discrimination in housing. According to the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan (FHC), testers posing as unmarried couples inquired over a one-year period about renting from landlords who own 14 condos and eight apartments. But the landlords allegedly told the testers that they would rent the units only to single people or married couples.

The landlords have agreed to pay $60,000 to the FHC to settle the discrimination claims, according to a report from the Associated Press.

If you're wondering whether marital status is protected in your state, check out the Protected Classes Tool at fairhousingresources.com or my article on About.com, entitled "Does Your State Fair Housing Law Have Any Additional Protected Classes?"