Federal Fair Housing Act – Know the Basics

Owning and leasing properties is a two-way street. Both landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities. Understanding the laws, both at the state and federal levels, and establishing a transparent line of communication is the first step to a positive relationship. Let us start with the Fair Housing Act established back in 1968.

What is The Fair Housing Act?

It was created to limit landlords, lenders, buyers, and renters from discriminating against someone looking for housing or those seeking a mortgage or housing assistance. The act was created because every American should have an equal opportunity to locate a place to live, without fear of discrimination due to factors outside their control.

As a property owner or landlord, it is imperative that you understand The Fair Housing Act and abide by the law. This is equally true for tenants. Everyone who applies for housing has the right to be treated equally.

What Are The Fair Housing Act’s Seven Factors?  

It is illegal for property owners or landlords to discriminate against whom you sell or rent your property to due to the following seven factors:

  • color 
  • race
  • religion 
  • sex
  • nationality 
  • Familial status (pregnant women or families with minor children under 18)
  • disability

What Are Examples of Discrimination?

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) the following are examples of discrimination:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing or make housing unavailable.
  • Imposition different sale prices, terms, or conditions for the rental or sale of a property.
  • Delaying or failing to perform repairs or maintenance for certain renters.
  • Limit services or privileges and facilities of a property due to gender nationality or race.
  • Use different qualifications or application requirements, fees, credit analysis or approval process.
  • Harass a person.
  • Assign a person to a particular building or neighborhood or section.
  • Blockbusting or persuading homeowners to sell their homes because a certain protected characteristic is moving into the neighborhood. 

What Can Landlords Do to Protect Themselves?

The first thing property owners and landlords can do to protect themselves from being accused of discrimination is to know and understand the law. Next, create a standard system for screening potential tenants and apply the same qualifications and standards for everyone who applies to live on your property. This includes documentation, referrals, application fees, credit checks, etc. Always treat every applicant and prospect with professionalism, respect, and the utmost dignity. 

It is important to note that you are required to follow the Fair Housing Act terms, but you can deny potential tenants if they have poor credit reports, inability to pay rent, based on referrals and credit checks.  Do your due diligence, remain consistent in your screening procedures to protect you as well as your tenants. 

How HUD Enforces the Fair Housing Act

Fair Housing Act Testers: The HUD will send employees to pose as potential home buyers or renters to investigate if any discrimination is happening. Landlords and property owners must be aware of all conversations and communications. This includes telephone, email, mail, text, in person, marketing, and advertising.

Fair Housing Discrimination Investigation: If someone feels their rights are challenged or violated, the HUD will file a claim and investigate to determine if there is any evidence or truth to the claim. If so, they will begin legal action against the property owner or landlord.

The best advice is to understand The Fair Housing Act at both the federal and your state levels. Some states have additional laws that protect against age, student status, and sexual orientation. Research, stay updated and follow all the laws required. Stay informed, professional, and consistent for a positive relationship with your tenants.