Fair Housing Act Risks Touch More Businesses Than You Think!

What is the Fair Housing and Whom Does it Protect?

Have you heard of the federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”)?  If so, you can probably name most of the seven categories of people it protects from discrimination. The FHA is Title XIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  It prohibits discrimination in housing transactions that is based on Race, Color, National Origin, Religion, Sex, Disabilities, & Familial Status.

The term housing transactions means the FHA applies to nearly any dwelling that is being sold or rented, including condos, duplexes, homeless shelters, seasonal bungalows, and assisted living units.

The FHA applies to many different Transactors, including Advertisers, Builders, Developers, Homeowners Associations, Lenders, Realtors®, Refugee Agencies, and Rental Agents.

Frequent Violations of the FHA.

One frequently committed violation occurs at multi-family housing complexes.  The owner does a good job of following the law by renting apartments to families with and without children, but then drops the ball by discriminating in the use of the common areas.  For example, the swimming pool is restricted to use only by adults.  This is known as snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

Another area of frequent failure is in handling a tenant’s request for a reasonable accommodation in connection with the tenant’s disability.  The FHA requires landlords to grant exceptions to the facility rules as long as the request is reasonable under the circumstances.  A pet-free complex owner may need to permit a tenant to have a service animal in his apartment.  It is almost certainly an FHA violation for the landlord summarily to deny such requests.

How Can Businesses Minimize the Risk of a Violation?

Every business that could (i) reasonably be a Transactor and (ii) reasonably be expected to come into contact with protected persons needs to implement practices to ensure that all your employees and agents treat everyone fairly and with respect. Pay special attention to recognizing and promptly responding to requests for reasonable accommodations.

Michael Oswald



Please note: the above post contains educational information. It is not intended as legal advice. Engage an attorney who is licensed in your state to get advice on dealing with any specific legal issue.

© 2018 Michael S. Oswald

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