Fair Housing Act Compliance Gets Complicated by COVID19.
The Intermountain Fair Housing Council, located in Boise, is a nonprofit organization that (among other things) provides education and training on complying with the federal Fair Housing Act. https://ifhcidaho.org/
The IFHC put on a two-hour program on 5/11/20 titled Fair Housing: “The 7 Protected Classes.”
The attorneys presenting the material did a terrific job of highlighting various things that housing providers need to do in light of COVID19.
Key Take-Aways from the Program:
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development operates several affordable housing programs. Housing providers who participate in those programs are affected by HUD’s current moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.
- Organizations who are providing temporary shelter should think of themselves as Housing Providers for purposes of FHA compliance.
- Providers need to be “over-communicating” with their tenants during this time. Many of their tenants could be out of work because of job loss, or other second-order effects such as lack of child care or lack of access to health care. Providers would do well to focus on ways to keep people housed rather than becoming homeless.
- Providers need to document everything they do in response to a tenant’s request for a change in their current arrangements. This is especially important if the tenant’s request was made orally instead of in writing. The Provider will be hard-pressed to prove compliance with the FHA unless there are written records detailing the tenant requests and the Provider’s responses.
- A tenant who has a disability may make a vague, oral request for a change in their living arrangements. Providers need to train their personnel to be alert for any request that could trigger the need to begin an interactive dialogue with the tenant on how best to address the tenant’s needs. Providers should document the dialogue and any reasonable accommodation the Provider makes as a result.
- A visitor who has a disability might have a service animal with them. Even if the tenant they are visiting doesn’t have a disability, the person with the disability must be allowed to bring the service animal on the property during the visit. Failure to allow the service animal on the property would likely be viewed as housing discrimination on account of the person’s disability.
- Providers might be using technology to give virtual tours of a rental to a prospective tenant. Providers need to be alert for any communication problems these systems present to persons who have limited English proficiency.
Housing (or the lack of it) affects everything about a person. It makes sense for each community to take a genuine “we are all in this together” attitude about keeping people in their homes.
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.
© 2020 Michael S. Oswald