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.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Seven Years After Its Enactment, a Local Fair Housing Law Has Its Day in Court

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A New York court judge ruled that owners and managers of a Buffalo apartment complex are liable for violating the city's fair housing law banning discrimination based on source of income. At issue was whether a prospective tenant can legally be turned away because she holds housing choice (Section 8) vouchers.

The judge ruled that such action violates the ban because landlords in that city can't base tenancy decisions on where a prospect would get the rent money owed under their lease.

The 2013 ruling is the first for this civil rights ordinance, which was enacted in 2006, according to a report from WNYmedia.net. The court will rule on damages in a separate proceeding.

Should federal law include "source of income" as a protected class? Is it fair for landlords to not have a choice when it comes to housing choice vouchers?

What do you think?

Important to note:
  • In addition to cities, many states include protected classes not found in the Fair Housing Act. Check out the "Protected Classes Tool" at fairhousingresources.com to find out the situation in your state.
  • As an owner or manager, it's important to get familiar with state and local differences in fair housing law when running a building in a different part of the country. In this case, the apartment complex was owned by absentee owners and managers based in California, according to the report. Learn more compliance tips by reading the new Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Supportive Living Facility Sued for 'No Mental Illness' Policy

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A supportive living facility with a stated mission to "promote a better lifestyle for people with physical disabilities while encouraging self-direction, greater privacy, independence and dignity" is under fire for allegedly refusing to rent to people who have received a mental health diagnosis.

According to a report from The Beacon News, Eden Supportive Living of North Aurora, Illinois, communicated a "no mental illness" policy to prospective tenants and told prospects who revealed a mental health diagnosis that they can't live there.

The lawsuit, filed by HOPE Fair Housing Center in federal district court against Eden and the State of Illinois, claims this policy violates the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) ban on disability-based discrimination and that state regulations that facilitate such a policy are illegal.

(Indeed, at the time of this writing, Eden indicates on its Web site that "Supportive Living is an assisted living model administered by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services that combines housing with services for persons 22 and over with physical disabilities.")

The FHA specifically includes "a physical or mental impairment" in its coverage definition, and so limiting tenancy only to people with physical impairments would mean denying housing to people who are protected under the same part of the law.


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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Grand Forks Becomes First North Dakota City to Ban Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination in Housing

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Sexual orientation and gender identity are two protected classes that aren't among the seven federally protected ones outlined in the Fair Housing Act.

They're also not part of North Dakota's fair housing law, which adds protection based on age (40 and older), marital status, and public assistance status.

But yesterday, a ban against housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity became law in Grand Forks, after the city council voted 5-2 in favor, according to a report from the Grand Forks Herald. Landlords who violate the ban put their rental license and certificates of occupancy at risk and may face a $500 fine for each offense.