let’s talk: FAIR HOUSING LAWS
Last week we discussed how we go about finding tenants for our real estate business. After that post, my Dad (who is an attorney), suggested we also review the fair housing laws. It is truly important to understand the fair housing laws on both a national and local level. Let’s talk about that.
So, as we do, let’s talk Real Estate, let’s talk FAIR HOUSING LAWS…
Fair housing laws can be defined on a federal, state and local level.
On a national scale, we have the Fair Housing Act.
WHAT IS THE FAIR HOUSING ACT?
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that works to prevent discrimination in public and private housing related activities. According to the law, a person seeking to buy or rent an apartment, obtain a mortgage, request housing assistance, or engage in any other housing related activities cannot be discriminated against on the basis of any of the outlined protected classes.
SO WHAT ARE THE PROTECTED CLASSES?
The classes protected against discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act are:
- Family status
- National origin
- Disability (physical or mental)
SOME STATES TAKE THIS FEDERAL LAW ONE STEP FURTHER.
In New York, under the New York Human Rights Law, it is also illegal to discriminate on the basis of:
- Sexual orientation
- Marital status
- Military status
The New York City Human Rights Law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of:
- Alienage/citizenship status
- Domestic partnership status
- Gender identity
- Lawful occupation
- Lawful source of income (including public assistance/housing assistance, Social Security, supplemental security income, pensions, or unemployment benefits)
- Status as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO THE FAIR HOUSING ACT?
The Fair Housing Act applies to almost all types of housing EXCEPT:
- Owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units
- Single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent
- Housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members
WHO ENFORCES THE FAIR HOUSING LAWS?
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for overseeing and administering the Fair Housing Act on a national level. They work with the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) group to review any filed complaints and violations of the law.
HOW CAN ONE FILE A COMPLAINT IF THEY FEEL AS THOUGH THEY HAVE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST?
You really have two options (as far as I can tell)!
(1) THE FHEO accepts complaints filed online, via email, phone or physical mail.
You can file your complaint here: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint
(2) File your complaint DIRECTLY with a federal district court in your state.
If you go this route and bypass the FHEO, it is recommended that you hire legal counsel or work with a nonprofit housing advocacy organization that provides pro bono legal services.
SO WHY DID WE REVIEW THESE TODAY?
Because, as a landlord, it is CRITICALLY important that we are never intentionally or unintentionally deny our rental units to prospective tenants on the basis of discrimination against any of the protected classes.
**I WANT TO FULLY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY NOR AM I PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. PLEASE CONSULT WITH A PROFESSIONAL FOR ALL LEGAL MATTERS.”**
I HOPE THIS WAS A QUICK HELPFUL REFRESHER! PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU THINK WE MISSED ANYTHING!
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