The Fair Housing Act (FHA) entitles every American to equal and fair treatment in the housing market. However, there are landlords in Florida who aren’t aware of the implications.
Some property owners face costly discrimination lawsuits because they don’t know about the FHA.
Are you a landlord in Broward County, Florida wanting to learn more about the Fair Housing Act?
Here are the eight most frequently asked questions about this federal statute.
#1: What’s the Federal Fair Housing Act?
The Fair Housing Act aims to counter any discrimination in the housing market. It was put into place to stop sellers and landlords from discriminating against people from a particular class of the society.
As a result, every American gets fair and equal treatment in activities related to housing. This protection includes renting and buying a house together with getting a mortgage loan.
#2: What’s the history behind the Fair Housing Act?
There is a series of events preceding the FHA. In the past, people dealt with serious housing discrimination issues. The strong will to counter these hardships resulted in:
- The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s
- The Rumford Fair Housing Act in 1963
- The Civil Rights Act in 1964
These actions led up to enacting the Fair Housing Act in 1968. The establishment took place a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
#3: Who are protected under the Fair Housing Act?
This federal statute protects people in seven classes. The protected classes are:
- National Origin
- Familial Status
The category of familial status includes pregnant women and those having children under the age of 18. In 2017, a ruling by a federal judge made clear that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes under the FHA. There is a pending effort for an amendment to make the principle explicit.
#4: What does the Fair Housing Act aim to achieve?
You may wonder what discrimination looks like in real-life situations. Take a look at the following list of practical examples:
- Discriminatory statements against a protected class in property ads
- Refusal to disclose information about a mortgage loan
- Setting disparate terms and conditions on a mortgage
- Refusal to rent, sell, or negotiate for housing
- False claims about the availability of housing
- Quoting various terms and conditions depending on the prospective tenant’s class
- Refusal to make or purchase a loan
- Changing amenities and accommodations depending on the tenant’s background and identity
There are many other potential scenarios. All these forms of discrimination are exactly what the FHA aims to shield buyers and tenants against.
#5: Does the Fair Housing Act apply to everyone?
No, the most noteworthy exemptions are as following:
- Single-family homes rented or sold without using a broker
- An owner-occupied home that has less than four units for rent
- A private club or organization with a members-only policy
#6: What are the consequences for violating the FHA?
The penalties depend on the nature of the violation.
Simple discrimination charges may result in a fine or imprisonment for a year at most or both.
#7: How is the Fair Housing Act enforced?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development holds responsibility for the Fair Housing act. Anyone who feels their right has been violated can:
- File a claim with HUD
- File a lawsuit in a federal district court
There are two ways HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act:
- They investigate all the discrimination claims. After someone files a claim, they dispatch a dedicated team for investigating the issue. After conducting a thorough analysis, they decide on the next appropriate steps.
- They hire people to pose as buyers and tenants. That’s why landlords and sellers have to be alert at all times. As a landlord, you can’t afford to make any mistakes in your ads, on phone conversations, and face-to-face meetings.
#8: How can landlords avoid discrimination?
- Remain cautious about what you say one the phone and in person.
- Analyze your rental ads before getting them published. Remove anything that may attract discrimination charges.
- Have the same standards for all prospective tenants.
- Treat everyone with respect.
- Check for state and local laws for further protected classes.
- Remain consistent in the process of tenant screening.
- Recognize any bias you might have against your tenants. Take steps to avoid this bias affecting your actions.
A common misconception involves concluding that you have to accept the first applicant. You can still rule out renters based on criteria that aren’t discriminative. For example:
- Insufficient income level
- Conviction of a crime that could endanger other tenants
- Poor credit
The bottom line: things to know about the Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act counters discrimination in the housing sector. As a landlord, you have to comply with this federal statute at all times. HUD hires people to randomly check for non-compliance.
The FHA comes with seven categories of protected classes. Landlords have to make sure that they don’t take any discriminatory actions against these protected classes. Even simple discrimination charges carry a fine or imprisonment for a year at most or both.
If you believe that you’d benefit from the services a professional property management company offers, contact Florida Property Management & Sales today!