The Fair Housing Act is a set of rules aimed at governing and eliminating discrimination in real estate transactions (i.e., leases, rentals, sales, advertisements). If you are a landlord or a tenant, chances are you already may have dealt with the law in one way or another. For example, fair housing laws give you the right to equal treatment when you are renting or buying. But the fair housing laws also impact what landlords can do when they are looking for new tenants, such as who they can refuse to consider and on what basis.
This post is aimed to put some light on the fair housing act and when to seek the help of a professional fair housing lawyer.
Advertising is the usual first step to making a property available for rent, and tenants search ads, whether they are in print or online. Landlords want to promote their property on the best platforms, so that they gain access to the most potential tenants. These tenants can then check the specifications of the property to make informed decisions. The key for a landlord, however, is to ensure that its ads are lawful.
Here are some common statements that you must avoid.
- No families with young children;
- No Muslims;
- No pets (including emotional support animals).
A landlord who using any of these statements in its rental advertisement, may be violating the fair housing laws. If in doubt, then it is smart to connect with a fair housing lawyer, so that expensive litigation can be avoided.
Landlords want to be sure that they are choosing the best tenants for their property. Good tenants are good for everyone. However, landlords sometimes do it the wrong way and ask some screening questions that may be unlawful (or used as evidence of possible discrimination).
Questions to be avoided in the screening process include:
- Where is your accent from?
- Do you have a service dog?
- How old are your children?
- What religion are you?
It is important for landlords to be fair to everyone when choosing tenants. Landlords should follow the same process for screening every potential tenant, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, etc. One potential tenant should not be required to come in for a personal interview, while other potential tenants are permitted to be interviewed over the phone.
Not every disagreement between a landlord and a tenant justifies an eviction. Again, potential evictions must be handled uniformly. So if one white tenant blares his music at 1 a.m. on a Friday and is simply given a warning notice, then if a tenant of color does the same thing the following weekend, that tenant also should receive a warning notice. Different treatment with similar circumstances is often one of the biggest indicators of unlawful discrimination.
Whether you are a tenant or a landlord, it is important to be aware of fair housing laws. The best way to protect your rights as a tenant is to hire a fair housing lawyer.