What You Need to Know About Fair Housing
Fair Housing isn’t just an attitude; it’s the law. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) (42 U.S. Code § § 3601-3619 and 3631) applies in all 50 states and every US territory. These regulations exist to protect tenants, potential tenants and prospective homebuyers of all walks of life from predatory, discriminatory, and exclusionary housing practices.
As a landlord, you’ll be doing everything to attract new tenants from posting advertising and showing your property, to finally entering into a lease agreement with your tenant. How you complete every step along the way is the deciding factor between ending up with a new tenant – or ending up with a lawsuit for Fair Housing violations.
The question you have to ask yourself is: What do you know about Fair Housing?
First and foremost, know whether these regulations apply to you. Not all types of housing are included in the FHA. The following are exclusions:
- Owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer units. The FHA generally isn’t applicable when a building has two to four units, and the owner lives in one of them.
- Single-family homes rented without a broker. The FHA doesn’t apply when a single-family house is sold or rented without a broker, so long as the owner doesn’t own more than three houses.
- Religious organizations. If you’re a religious organization leasing apartments at a property that you’re not operating for a commercial purpose, you may legally limit occupancy or give preferences to people of your organization’s religion. However, the FHA points out that this exception is strictly limited to religion and cautions that a religious organization still can’t discriminate based on race, color, or national origin (42 U.S. Code § 3607(a)).
- Private clubs. If you’re leasing apartments on behalf of a private club and not for a commercial purpose, the FHA lets you limit occupancy to your club’s members.
- Senior housing. Although the FHA bans discrimination against families with children, you may be exempt from this ban if your property qualifies as senior housing. Exempt properties include those that fit the rules of 55 and older or 62 and older communities, or those that participate in a federal, state or local senior housing program.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are state and local fair housing laws that can be more restrictive than described above. Be sure to study up! Not knowing the law is not an excuse for breaking it. You may think that posting an apartment as “perfect for a young couple with no kids” is harmless – but by excluding every other kind of person outside of that narrow description, it’s a classic case of discrimination under the FHA.
Most likely, your property will not be exempt from the FHA. It is essential that you are familiar with the illegality of discrimination based on these seven protected classes:
Of course, there is great benefit to not being discriminatory, both personal and professional. You are looking to find a quality tenant, which has nothing to do with familial status, age, gender or disability. By using a standardized and inclusive application process, you will better your chances of finding that tenant while at the same time bolstering the reputation of yourself and your business. It is wise to stay up to date with your local anti-discrimination laws, and to delve deeply into the Fair Housing Act.
How Can You Protect Yourself as a Landlord?
A perfect way to make sure that your housing practices are legal, standardized and up to date is to hire a property management company. Frontline Property Management, Inc has a full staff of members who have completed the NARPM (National Association of Residential Property Management) Fair Housing certification. From the front desk to the CEO, Frontline is prepared to help you avoid the liabilities and ensure that your business is always handled in accordance with the ever-changing laws. Our team of tenant coordinators conduct FHA-approved screening of your applicants, and our qualified Property Managers ensure that your listings are available to all applicants. Every step is protected, down to the bottom line.