Fair Housing

Understanding practical applications of the Fair Housing Act wil help ensure you do not inadvertently violate the Fair Housing Act.

Remember, courts have determined that a violation may be proven even if there was no intent to discriminate, as long as there is evidence of a discriminatory effect. Plus, you never know when your fair housing practices are being tested; testers from government or private groups can pose as home seekers, and their evidence is fully admissible in court.

1. Refusing to sell or rent a property or discouraging a potential buyer or tenant because of a person's protected class status.

Don't say: "This two-bedroom condominium is just too small for you and your three children. Plus there is no playground nearby."

2. Using different provisions in leases or sales contracts, such as those relating to rental charges, security deposits, lease terms, downpayment, and closing requirements because of a person's protected class status.

Don't say: "Because you only moved to this country from Japan a little while ago, the sellers may be uneasy about your ability to secure a mortgage. I suggest that you make a larger earnest money deposit to help convince them of your interest and ability to close."

3. Urging residents to sell or rent their properties, often at bargain prices, by suggesting that members of a protected class are likely to move into the area and have a negative impact on property values. This violation is called blockbusting.

Don't say: "You know, the people who live in this neighborhood aren't the same Polish immigrants who lived here when you bought this house 30 years ago. It's just not safe for you to walk around alone any more. Maybe you should consider selling now while you can still get a good price for your house."

4. Restricting a person's choice to perpetuate segregated housing patterns based on membership in a protected class--taking African-American families, for example, only to predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Don't say: "I know how important it is for you to find a church congregation you can belong to. Let me show you two houses near the African-American Baptist Church on Second. I think that church would suit you."

5. Providing false information on the availability of a property for sale or rental based on a person's protected class status--even if that information is based on the owner's desires.

Don't say: "There's no point in your showing the Smith's house to that Hispanic couple; the Smiths will never sell to them."

6. Refusing to provide information on the availability of loans or other financial assistance or providing information that is inaccurate or different because of a person's membership in a protected class.

Don't say: "Mr. Hernandez, I think your best bet is to look into lenders that offer subprime mortgages. It'll be more expensive, but they're more likely to accept your application."

7. Using an appraisal that improperly takes into consideration the protected classes in estimating property value.

Don't say: "See if you can get the value of the property as high as you can. She's an old lady, and this house is her only asset, so I want to get her a really good price."

8. Relying on illegal covenants or provisions that preclude the sale or rental of a dwelling to a person because of membership in a protected class.

Don't say: "I'd love to show you the house in this development, but the restrictive covenants wouldn't allow you to build the entry ramp you need for your wheelchair."

October 2017
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