If you are new to being a landlord (and maybe even if you’re an experienced rental property owner), you will want to familiarize yourself with the specific details of the Fair Housing Act. It’s worth noting that many lawsuits targeting landlords are because the landlord violated the Fair Housing Act. Most of the time the landlords have no idea that they violated the Fair Housing Act. Violations of this kind can be expensive. It’s federal law and you have to comply with it.
Landlords Must Understand What Constitutes Discrimination
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing. Many landlords can’t name all of the protected statuses. You need to realize what specific reasons you can’t discriminate against someone in housing. The following is a list of protected statuses:
- National Origin
- Familial Status
HUD has some examples of housing discrimination that might surprise you if you are a landlord. Many are common knowledge but some aren’t. Do you know what constitutes a disability? Do you know what kinds of things constitute discriminating against someone with a disability? These are topics landlords must know.
Know What Kinds Of Housing Is Covered
Many landlords don’t even think that they have to abide by the Fair Housing Act because they don’t own a large apartment complex. Actually, most housing is covered in the Act. Exemptions are rare. Here are the types of housing that are exempt:
- 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
- Private clubs that limit occupancy to members only
Never, Ever Alter Your Procedures
If you use a different procedure like qualification criteria, income standards, application fees for someone in one of the protected classifications than you did for someone not in one of the protected classifications a couple of months ago, that could be taken as discrimination, even if you didn’t mean to. Develop your procedures and stick to them. If you go lenient one a family because you feel sorry for them and let them skip the application fee, but then turn around and charge an application fee to a single mother, it could appear that you are discriminating on the single mother based on her family status. This is just one example, but sticking to your procedures all of the time will be the easiest way to avoid these kinds of misunderstandings.
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