03 May 2012
Since April is Fair Housing Month, this is a good time to evaluate our rental housing policies and procedures and to make sure our staff members are current on the laws.
There are many grey areas in the laws and our State Legislature is changing the laws/ interpretations as we go to press.
The questions we face are: how do I know what standards my managers and I have to follow; what are the penalties if we don't stick to the letter of the law (what happens to me and what happens to my property); and most importantly, how can I find out what I need to know to protect myself and my property?
All of these are critical questions. As a member of the Apartment Association, California Southern Cities, one of your many benefits includes access to wellinformed, easy to understand answers to your Fair Housing questions.
For starters, the Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, sex, national origin, color, religion, handicap, or familial status. The California State Fair Employment and Housing Act also makes it illegal to discriminate based on marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, ancestry, and age. Currently a bill in Sacramento will expand the protected classes to include victims of domestic violence. In January new restrictions were placed on employers (you) when dealing with transgender individuals.
This holds true in the advertising, appraisal, financing, sale or rental of housing or in the provision of real estate brokerage services.
It sounds pretty straightforward and most of these provisions seem to be pretty obvious. But, some are not quite so clear cut, some are implemented differently in various parts of the country and the interpretation of some are still undergoing change.
For example, it is difficult to stay completely current on rules regarding housing involving prior arrest records, gender identity, smoking, medical marijuana, victims of domestic abuse and even sources of income such as government vouchers.
It is safe to say that some of the most common "cannots" that you and your managers must follow include:
- Setting different terms, conditions or rents for certain classes of applicants
- Indicating preferences in your advertising
- Asking questions of applicants about their race, religion, ethnicity or perceived handicaps
- Claiming a unit is not available to prevent a specific class of applicant from renting it
To be safe and to avoid being fined or banned for extended periods of time in the case of HUD properties, it is best to follow the example of your Apartment Association (AACSC).
We support Fair Housing in everything we do. This includes all of our events (membership meetings, luncheons and classes). We teach Fair Housing classes here at the AACSC offices as well as at on-site classes. We often go out to management companies and teach their staff about Fair Housing in one day.
Call Nancy or Terri at AACSC to set up a Fair Housing program for your employees or to attend our next Fair Housing seminar on June 11, 6:00pm-10:00pm (cost is $69).