The Fair Housing Act provides for a few exemptions for owner-occupied buildings with less than 5 units, single family housing rented or sold without the use of a broker, and housing that is operated by private clubs and organizations that limit occupancy to their members. Other than specific exemptions, when it comes to the sale or rental of housing, we are held to standards of fairness relating to the sale, rental, representations and advertising of housing.
Now we know that discrimination within the Fair Housing Laws means treating people differently based on them being members of a protected class. We also know the burden of proof that it didn’t happen is on the accused. To protect yourself if you are accused, you should have a combination of knowledge, standard forms, and a practice of treating everyone the same across the board.
So, what are the “protected classes” you should know about? Federal laws identify race, (skin) color, religion (religious beliefs or affiliations), national origin (one’s birth country or ancestry, sex (gender), familial status (household composition or presence of children in the family), and disability (physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities). Some state laws may also include age (18 & older), marital status, sexual orientation, domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking victims, and lawful source of income (including unemployment compensation, social security, etc.). Local ordinances may incorporate additional classes that are not named in federal or state laws. Locally protected classes may include political beliefs, student status, domestic partnership, military discharge status, tenant union association and gender identity – just to name a few.
What can you do to comply with fair housing laws? In addition to knowing about fair housing laws and activities, you can express your intent to abide by fair housing laws by including a statement on rental applications, and brochures and signs in your rental office. HUD has a fair housing poster that can be printed from their website. (Go to http://www.hud.gov and search Fair Housing Poster).
Create a rental policy that can be posted or referred to by applicants or your agents and apply the policy across the board. If you do anything differently than you normally do, document the situation and the reason it happened on your appointment book or guest info card. (i.e., “could not show apartment because potential renter said they were feeling nauseous and would come back another time.”) Don’t make statements in advertising that make reference to a protected class (i.e., no kids). Use standardized forms for applications, leases, sales materials, etc. Finally, if anyone asks you questions that seem to be leading you towards a fair housing violation, simply reply that you can show them what you have available and they will have to decide whether it suits their needs or not.
We cover all of these topics in more detail in the Rich Dad Education Elite Property Management Course.
Rich Dad Education Elite Property Management Course Instructor