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Apr 02

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Putting the “fair” in Fair Housing

The idea behind Fair Housing is to ensure that prohibited discrimination does not serve as an obstacle to choice in housing.As April is FairHousing Month, it’s a good time to ensure your knowledge of the federal Fair Housing Act. Promoting awareness of fair housing and educating people on their rights and responsibilities is essential to ensuring that we each have what the Fair Housing Act is there to provide – a choice as to where we live. In short, the law prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings, as well as in other housing-related transactions based on:

• Race

• Color

• National origin

• Religion

• Sex (gender)

• Handicap (disability)

• Familial status According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act for real estate professionals to take any of the following actions based on any of the above protected classes:

• Refuse to rent or sell a home

• Refuse to negotiate for a home

• Make a home unavailable

• Falsely deny that a home is available for inspection, sale, or lease

• Persuade an owner to sell or rent to a particular buyer

• Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for the sale or lease of a home

• Steering families with children or people with disabilities to the first floor While on the subject of children, do you know exactly what “familial status” means? Unless a development or community qualifies as housing for older persons, it may not discriminate because a household includes children under age 18 living with a parent or legal guardian, a person who has legal custody or seeking legal custody of a child or children, or a woman who is pregnant. Here are just a few examples of this type of discrimination:

• “No Children” policies (except in the case of housing that qualifies as housing for older persons)

• Requiring families to live in specific buildings of an apartment complex or on specific floors of a building

• Refusing to rent to households with children based on perceived risks and dangers of the property (such as lead paint, steep steps, location near train tracks) Not allowing children access to age appropriate apartment amenities

• Charging extra for children

What about persons with disabilities? What steps could a landlord take to meet both the letter and spirit of the Fair Housing Act with respect to this protected class? A rental property with a first-come, first-served parking policy makes an exception by creating a reserved parking space for a tenant who, because of her disability, needs to park close to the building The monthly tenants’ or owners’ association meeting, usually held in an inaccessible building, is moved to a building that is accessible A landlord permits a tenant with mobility impairment to move from a third-floor unit to the first floor

A rental property makes an exception to the building’s “no pets” rule for people with disabilities who use guide dogs or other service animals More details are available at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/FHLaws/yourrights. It’s important to know your rights. Even though others can also be held accountable for Fair Housing violations, it’s also fair to say that the person in the best position to prevent it is you.

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