As of 2020, as per a report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, one in three American households is occupied by renters.
The basic discrimination protections within the 1964 Civil Rights Act were extended by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, into the housing market. It states that discrimination in the purchase, sale, rental, or financing of housing, whether it’s private or public, and based on color, race, national origin, religion, disability, familial status, and sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity) is explicitly prohibited. Local ordinances may also offer additional protections.
There are certain rules that landlords should know about Fair Housing.
- Understand all fair housing laws and ensure that all the decisions taken are based on legal and legitimate business reasons.
- Refrain from applying arbitrary, tougher standards for certain renters over others. Where refrain is not showed, then landlords set themselves up for a lawsuit, particularly in cases where different standards are applied by them to persons of a protected class.
- Refrain from giving certain renters special privileges or breaks like lowering the security deposit for a single mother but not for other married tenants. If not followed, then landlords risk being charged with discrimination from the other tenants even if the landlord intended to be discriminatory.
- State only property amenities or features and not what they are looking for in a tenant when advertising a rental unit. If not followed, they will be termed as discriminatory and declared as a clear violation of fair housing laws.
- Should avoid, when showing properties, steering which happens when landlords guide prospective renters to or away from a property based on their protected class. For instance, should avoid saying things like ‘you would like this particular apartment or home because it is quiet with few children around’.
- The screening process must be objective. In addition, there should be a written rental policy stating the criteria to live in your property and should include occupancy guidelines, availability policy, and rental criteria (employment history, income, credit standards, etc). There should not be any questions asking for protected class information. It is also vital to maintain records of each applicant or inquiry.
- The 2-person-per-bedroom occupancy standard is acceptable in most situations according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, the situation can change at times depending on how the property is laid out and how large or small the living space or bedrooms are. To be on the safe side, RPOA recommends looking to local housing codes for it is a more practical way of setting limits.
- Reasonable accommodations or modifications for individuals with a disability must be provided, under the housing laws. As per the laws, this is essential so that the person with disabilities can have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces.
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