The Fair Housing Act is essential for both tenants and landlords to understand. As a Harrisburg landlord, you should follow this guide to Fair Housing and understand every aspect of the act and how to avoid breaking it. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from discrimination throughout the rental process and other housing transactions. Pay attention to protected classes under these laws, examples of Fair Housing violations, and your responsibility as a landlord under the Fair Housing Act.
Understand the Fair Housing Act
As mentioned above, the Fair Housing Act protects individuals from discrimination during a home purchase or rental. It also protects individuals with disabilities from being discriminated against in asking for reasonable accommodations due to their condition. Additionally, the Fair Housing act covers harassment, retaliatory eviction or behavior, threats, and the discriminatory or exclusionary advertising of the property.
Marketing should be professionally done and without discrimination. Also, a landlord may never suggest the “type” of people that rent in their property or neighborhood, such as type of professionals, income levels, race, age, and religion. Marketing to only specific types of individuals based on these items is prohibited under the act. We cover some examples below.
Other protected classes under this act:
- Age (40 years or older)
- Sexual Orientation
- National Origin
- Familial Status
Examples of Fair Housing Act Infringements
Now that you know what is covered under the Fair Housing Act, it’s crucial to understand how they apply in the real estate world.
Examples of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act include:
- Housing Discrimination: You may not deny housing to any individual based on your opinion of them, which may stem from race, gender, disabilities, or any of the other examples stated above. Everyone who tours the property and wants to apply needs to be given a chance to apply, screened properly, and only denied based on standard criteria, such as criminal background or eviction history.
- Denying Reasonable Accommodations: Allowing someone with disabilities to live on the property but denying them reasonable accommodations is also against the law. This could include only offering them a top floor unit when they are unable to use stairs, or denying them their certified assistance animal.
- Exclusionary Marketing: Marketing and tours need to focus on the property and the price point, not who can and cannot live there. If a prospect asks what “type of people” live in the building, you must state that due to Fair Housing laws, you cannot disclose that information. Sharing demographics of the property with others is against the Fair Housing Act policies.
- Retaliation Behavior: Retaliatory behavior includes anything that involves retaliating against a tenant in any way. The best example is retaliatory eviction. This is when a landlord threatens or proceeds with eviction if, say, a tenant establishes a court-held escrow account due to safety reasons, or joins a tenant union.
- Harassment and Threatening Behavior: You may not, for any reason, threaten or harass a tenant (no matter what they have done or said to you). This can be considered discrimination.
Responsibilities of a Landlord Under the Fair Housing Act
As a landlord, it’s your responsibility to follow all rules and guidelines under the Fair Housing Act. Landlords in violation of this act will be subjected to hefty fees and other potential consequences. To reiterate, it is your responsibility as a landlord to:
- Provide all tenants with fair and equal housing
- Not be involved in retaliatory behavior
- Allow those with disabilities reasonable accommodations
- Treat each prospect equally and allow everyone a chance to apply for the rental
- Avoid discriminatory advertising, such as “no children.”
- Know the Fair Housing Act like the back of your hand and hire a real estate attorney or property management company to verify that your procedures and practices are legal.
Violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act could result in significant trouble for landlords. The best thing a landlord can do to avoid making these mistakes is to hire a professional property management company in Harrisburg with experience in rent collection, tenant screening, eviction processes, as well as state, local, and federal Fair Housing Laws.