The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is the primary federal law prohibiting housing discrimination in the United States. In real estate, fair housing laws ensure that all individuals have equal access to housing opportunities, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability. The purpose of fair housing laws is to make houses accessible to all and create welcoming and inclusive communities.
Many people are unaware that FHA covers both residential and commercial properties, which means that landlords and property managers cannot discriminate against potential tenants based on protected characteristics. Not only do rental properties fall under this act, but also properties that are for sale, and even ads for housing.
However, it’s crucial to note that the FHA has a few exceptions when it comes to commercial property. For example, the law does not apply to owner-occupied buildings with less than four units, or single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of a broker. In addition, the FHA does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although some states and municipalities have their own laws that do cover this discrimination.
It’s also important to note that commercial property owners must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. This means that landlords must make changes to their policies or practices, or provide extra aid or service, to ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their commercial space.
Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations, parking that is friendly for disabled people, doorways that are wide enough for wheelchairs, availability of handrails at an appropriate height, ramps at entrances and exits of buildings or housing complexes, accessible switchboards, wide corridors and easy access to different parts of the housing complex, accessible washrooms, accessible lifts, and braille buttons in lifts, are among the basic necessities that make housing facility friendly for people with disabilities.
Fair housing laws do apply to commercial property, but with some exceptions, and property owners must ensure that they are not discriminating against potential or current tenants based on protected characteristics mentioned in the law. However, it’s important to be aware of the exceptions and specific laws that apply in your state or municipality. To stay aware of the latest fair housing guidelines, it’s best to consult with a fair housing expert or attorney or to stay up-to-date on any changes to the law.