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, December 17, 2014

New "Fair Housing Tips in Less Than a Minute" Video Series Offers Quick Compliance Insights for Landlords

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Fair Housing Helper is pleased to announce the launch of a new video series aimed at offering landlords, property managers, and other housing professionals quick guidance on how to comply with fair housing law.

The series, entitled "Fair Housing Tips In Less Than a Minute," was launched with five tips, covering topics such as understanding protected classes to banning pets at an apartment.

You can now view the complete "Fair Housing Tips in Less Than a Minute" video series on YouTube.

Check this blog for announcements of new tips as they're added to the series. Plus, for more helpful information about housing discrimination, visit fairhousingresources.com.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Standing to Sue Under the Fair Housing Act: What's an 'Aggrieved Person'?

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The Fair Housing Act (FHA) bars landlords, property managers, and other housing professionals across the United States from engaging in certain discriminatory acts against prospects and tenants. But when a violation has allegedly occurred, who, exactly, is entitled to file a complaint under the FHA?

Clearly, a tenant in the middle of her lease term would have standing to sue her landlord for alleged discrimination under the FHA. But consider the situation of a stranger who sits next to this tenant on a plane, hears her story, and sympathizes. Would this stranger be able to sue the landlord for what the tenant claims the landlord did to her?

You probably won't be surprised to learn that the answer is no. After all, the stranger has nothing to do with the case.

So, a tenant under a written lease may sue her landlord, but someone who has no connection to an alleged discriminatory act cannot.

While these examples may seem obvious or sensible, what about all the situations in between?

The FHA is broad when it comes to a person's rights under the law and standing to bring a fair housing claim. The requirement is that the complainant be an "aggrieved person," which the FHA (in Section 3602) defines as someone who "(1) claims to have been injured by a discriminatory housing practice; or (2) believes that such person will be injured by a discriminatory housing practice that is about to occur." (As for the term "discriminatory housing practice," the same section defines it as "an act that is unlawful under section 3604, 3605, 3606, or 3617 of this title.") You can check out these definitions by visiting this Fair Housing Helper link.

This means that you don't have to be the actual person who is being discriminated against in order to be able to bring a claim. Say that two roommates go to look for an apartment and they're turned away because one of them has a disability or is black or Muslim. Both that person's rights and the other roommate's rights are infringed under the FHA, and either one or both may sue. The roommate who was not actually discriminated against has standing because such a person is clearly harmed by the alleged act of discrimination against the other roommate (unlike the example of the stranger on the plane).

In one famous early case, Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Insurance, 409 U.S. 205 (1972), the connection was even less direct. The court held that the plaintiffs had standing even though they had not themselves been the direct victims of discrimination. In that case, the plaintiffs were white yet they claimed that the landlord's alleged racial discrimination against nonwhites caused them harm because they "lost the benefits of living in an integrated community."

So, the key to being able to bring a complaint under the FHA is that you have to have suffered harm (or believe you're about to suffer harm). There is no requirement that an aggrieved person have a written lease or even be a current tenant. Tenants who live on a month-to-month basis with no written lease, roommates who aren't listed on a lease, applicants for an apartment (whether to a new or existing lease), and even prospective tenants who haven't yet applied for an apartment (but perhaps saw an allegedly discriminatory advertisement) all have standing.

That said, be sure to keep in mind that having standing to sue under the FHA doesn't mean you'll automatically succeed with a fair housing claim. A judge may still rule against you for a number of reasons, such as that your filing isn't timely, that there's insufficient evidence of illegal discrimination, or that the alleged discriminatory act actually isn't a violation of the FHA. But, if you don't have standing, you don't have a chance.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Black Friday Sale on Fair Housing Helper eBook Starts Today

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Black Friday is almost here, but Black Friday savings on Fair Housing Helper starts today.

Landlords, property managers, and other apartment professionals: Now's your chance to get on top of fair housing compliance...

Download Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals for Kindle for just $5.99, a savings of 40% off the regular price of $9.99. Just visit the Amazon.com page by clicking here.

You don't need an actual Kindle device to enjoy a Kindle eBook. You can read Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals on your iPad, smartphone, or even your computer, thanks to free Kindle apps.

Visit www.fairhousinghelper.com to learn more about what Kirkus Reviews calls a "useful, easy-to-read guide for those who want to learn more about complying with U.S. fair housing law," which was recently selected as a Finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards.

Plus, when you finish the book, follow the simple instructions to receive a complimentary, personalized fair housing training certificate and a free badge to use on your Web site or marketing materials.

The clock is ticking on this limited-time offer, which expires on Black Friday... Click here to download Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals for Kindle today for only $5.99.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook Decries Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Housing

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Apple CEO Tim Cook penned a column today in Bloomberg Businessweek in which he publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation. "I'm proud to be gay," Cook wrote, "and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

In his column, the chief of the company known for its "Think Different" campaign noted that although "America is moving toward marriage equality," many laws across the country still allow people to treat others differently because of their sexual orientation. "There are many places where landlords can evict tenants for being gay," Cook pointed out.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) has helped thousands of people across the United States seek justice and compensation for illegal housing discrimination. But the FHA protects people based on only seven protected classes — race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.

Many states, cities, and towns have enacted their own fair housing law that includes additional protected classes, such as sexual orientation. (For a scrollable list of additional protected classes in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, check out the "Protected Classes Tool" at fairhousingresources.com.) Also, new federal regulations bar housing providers who receive HUD funding or have loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration from discriminating based on "actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status."

Despite these advancements, Tim Cook's observation is correct. In much of the United States, 46 years after the FHA's enactment, landlords can still legally evict tenants — or refuse to rent to them in the first place — based on knowledge or suspicion of their sexual orientation.

Is this right? Should it change? Will it?

What do you think?

Learn more about fair housing compliance at FairHousingHelper.com.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day Sale: The Clock Is Ticking on Fair Housing Helper's One-Day Sale

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It's Labor Day! Are you up to speed on fair housing training? Are you offering enough accessible parking spots at your property? Are you unsure what to do when a tenant wants to keep an animal for a disability? Are you nervous about decorating your building for the holidays?

Now's your chance to get on top of fair housing compliance...

For one day only, download Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals for Kindle for just $6.99, a savings of 30% off the regular price of $9.99. Just visit the Amazon.com page by clicking here.

You don't need an actual Kindle device to enjoy a Kindle eBook. You can read Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals on your iPad, smartphone, or even your computer, thanks to free Kindle apps.

Visit www.fairhousinghelper.com to learn more about what Kirkus Reviews calls a "useful, easy-to-read guide for those who want to learn more about complying with U.S. fair housing law," which was recently selected as a Finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards.

Plus, when you finish the book, follow the simple instructions to receive a complimentary, personalized fair housing training certificate and a free badge to use on your Web site or marketing materials.

The clock is ticking, so act today before the price goes back up to $9.99! Click here to download Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals for Kindle today for only $6.99.

Friday, August 1, 2014

New 'Ron's Rent Roundup' Blog Debuts With Fair Housing Post

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I am excited to announce that Nolo, the publisher of my first book, hired me to run its landlord-tenant blog. The blog, called "Ron's Rent Roundup," offers plain-English legal analysis and timely lessons for landlords and tenants.

Check out the first post, entitled "Therapy Pig Dispute Offers Valuable Lessons to Landlords and Tenants," which may be more relevant to you than you might think.

I invite you to check the blog regularly for new posts on a wide range of helpful topics.

Just bookmark the blog URL — http://blog.nolo.com/rent/ — and follow me on Twitter @aboutapartments and @fairhousing to stay on top of the latest with Ron's Rent Roundup as well as Fair Housing Blog by Fair Housing Helper.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Enjoy Independence Day Savings on Fair Housing Training

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Now through Sunday, enjoy $4 off when purchasing Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals directly through the Fair Housing Helper eStore. Just use coupon code 3PVSWX2X.

Visit www.fairhousinghelper.com to learn more about what Kirkus Reviews calls a "useful, easy-to-read guide for those who want to learn more about complying with U.S. fair housing law," which was recently selected as a Finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards.

Landlords, property managers, and others who complete the training receive a complimentary, personalized fair housing training certificate and more!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fair Housing Helper Sites Featured in New Collection of 'Indispensable' Resources on Fair Housing

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SocialWorkDegree.net has published "Fair Housing & Social Work: Indispensable Online Resources," a useful collection of sites that features this blog (Fair Housing Blog by Fair Housing Helper, FairHousingBlog.com) and the newly redesigned Fair Housing Resources by Fair Housing Helper, FairHousingResources.com).

The sites, which are categorized and unranked, offer different perspectives on fair housing aimed at varying audiences. Check out the full listing and description of sites to see which ones interest you by visitinghttp://www.socialworkdegree.net/fair-housing-resources/

(For more information about the new FairHousingResources.com redesign, see "Apartment Professionals and Renters Can Learn About Fair Housing Law With Newly Redesigned FairHousingResources.com".)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New for Fair Housing Month 2014

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April is Fair Housing Month, and Fair Housing Helper is striving to make learning about rights and responsibilities under housing discrimination laws easier and more accessible:

An enhanced experience with the redesigned FairHousingResources.com.

Fair Housing Helper yesterday unveiled the newly redesigned FairHousingResources.com, to coincide with the start of Fair Housing Month. The redesigned site offers users an enhanced experience while presenting an even greater range of topical resources, including its popular "Protected Classes Tool," which offers a handy pull-down menu of additional protected classes by state.

Landlords, property managers, leasing agents, and staff who need to comply with fair housing laws can use FairHousingResources.com to access primary sources and other key information, such as the full text of the Fair Housing Act and its regulations, government guidance, related laws, and more.

Apartment hunters and renters also can visit the site to get familiar with how the law protects them against housing discrimination, including topics such as identifying illegal steering, apartment hunting with a disability, displaying religious decor in an apartment, and what to do if you think you've been discriminated against.

Read the press release, "Apartment Professionals and Renters Can Learn About Fair Housing Law With Newly Redesigned FairHousingResources.com," for more information and check out the new design at FairHousingResources.com.

Fair housing compliance training in a convenient and affordable eBook.

In anticipation of Fair Housing Month, Fair Housing Helper recently launched the eBook version of Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals, its popular compliance product aimed at helping landlords, property managers, leasing agents, and staff comply with the Fair Housing Act and related housing discrimination laws.

The new Kindle eBook edition retails for $9.99, 50% less than the $19.99 list price for the paperback, which is available on Amazon.com and other online retailers. Apartment professionals can now train using their tablet, smartphone, or even a PC or Mac, as well as on a Kindle device, thanks to free Kindle apps.
Extra savings: Readers who have already purchased the paperback version from Amazon.com can pick up the new Kindle edition for only $2.99 under the new Kindle MatchBook program. New readers who purchase both the print and Kindle versions from Amazon.com also get the Kindle edition for $2.99.
Read the press release, "Fair Housing Training on an iPad? New eBook Makes Discrimination Training Even More Convenient and Affordable," for more information and visit FairHousingHelper.com.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Retirement Community Accused of Penalizing Renters for Needing Motorized Wheelchairs

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A Virginia retirement community has been hit with a fair housing complaint for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act's (FHA) ban on discrimination based on disability.

According to a press release issued Wednesday by Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME), the organization filing the complaint, The Towers Retirement Community in Richmond unfairly and illegally places substantial burdens on renters who need to use a motorized wheelchair in connection with a disability.

Specifically, HOME claims that the community requires renters to commit to an additional $1,500 security deposit as well as obtain liability insurance for motorized wheelchairs, essentially making such renters pay for having a disability. Also, renters who use motorized mobility devices are apparently barred from using the community's transportation services—even though they're reportedly required to pay a monthly transportation fee as part of their monthly rent. In addition, HOME alleges that the community requires renters wishing to use a motorized wheelchair to get their disability assessed by the community's staff.

Planning Something for Fair Housing Month?

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It's February, which means Fair Housing Month is almost here. (For more information, see "Fair Housing Month: Why April Is Fair Housing Month.")

Are you a member of an organization that's hosting a poster contest, training seminar, or other event to commemorate the passage of the Fair Housing Act and promote housing discrimination awareness in April?

If so, feel free to e-mail the details (including any links) to info@fairhousinghelper.com and we'll mention it as part of our Fair Housing Month coverage on Fair Housing Blog by Fair Housing Helper.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Denver Fair Housing Audit Reveals 'Pervasive' Discrimination

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The Denver Metro Fair Housing Center (DMFHC) yesterday released the findings of its audit into fair housing practices, in a report entitled “Access Denied: A Report on Rental Housing Discrimination in the Denver Metro Area.”

The DMFHC's report is based on testing conducted in late 2013, in which white prospects were paired with black or Latino testers, and testers without children were paired with testers with children.

According to the report, apartment hunters are likely to encounter discrimination 91% of the time if they are Latino and 67% of the time if they are black. Also, a bias against families with children was present 73% of the time. DMFHC Executive Director Arturo Alvarado said the audit's “dramatic results" reveal that fair housing compliance "is a pervasive problem in our community and that our public officials must take action now to enforce fair housing laws and publicly condemn housing discrimination.”


Although this audit focused on race, national origin, and familial status, three of the seven protected classes under the Fair Housing Act, the report also cautions against noncompliance with other protected classes under federal as well as state housing discrimination laws.

For example, in its recommendations, the report advises housing providers to implement non-discriminatory policies, noting that:
One example of a policy that is unlawful under state law is an application fee discount offered to married couples only. Because marital status and sexual orientation are protected classes in Colorado, providing a discount to married people that is not available to singles or unmarried couples is an example of discrimination in terms, conditions, or privileges of rental.
You can download the full report here.