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.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Testers Show Ohio Landlord Didn't Make the Grade

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission yesterday ordered the landlord of an apartment building in Conneaut, Ohio, to pay over $11,000 in damages, attorney's fees, and travel costs for a complaint alleging violations of the FHA and state fair housing law's ban on discrimination based on familial status and disability.

According to a report from The Columbus Dispatch, the landlord:
  • told testers who claimed to need service animals for a disability either that all animals aren't allowed under any circumstances, or that keeping an animal for a disability would require a specific deposit; and

  • told a tester who posed as a single mother with a child that she can only rent a downstairs apartment at a higher cost (a practice commonly known as "steering").
Interestingly, the only allegations at issue were discriminatory acts committed against testers. Unlike actual victims, testers only pretend to be looking for an apartment while checking for fair housing compliance.

(Learn more about steering by reading "Fair Housing Help: Identify and Avoid Illegal Steering" and get more information about the role of testers by reading "Landlording in a World of Fair Housing Testing.")

Was this a fair outcome? Should the fact that the complaint stemmed from allegations based solely on testing play a role in determining liability or the amount of damages?

What do you think?


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1 comment:

Will Johnson said...

We're seeing this all over the country. I take a couple of observations from it. First, obviously, it shows a lot of need for further education for property managers and owners. The vast majority of violators want to do things right, but they just do not have a clear understanding of the laws and how to apply them. There are always some bad apples, but most folks want to do it right. Secondly, in a lot of cases the methodology for testing lacks transparency and, at times, is a bit unfair to the owners and management companies. It's important to educate and test, but it's also important that the testing is fair and conducted without an agenda.

Will Johnson