In the multifamily industry, you undoubtedly learn a great deal about housing and customer service on the job. You’ll likely pick up entirely new skill sets but there are a few concepts that are vital to know prior to starting your multifamily career. Among them is the 1968 Fair Housing Act. April 11th marks its 54th anniversary, and to honor Fair Housing Month we are providing you with a basic what you need to know guide. If you’re interested in pursuing a multifamily career this guide is the perfect introduction to fair housing for you.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law enacted by the government in 1968 as part of the civil rights act. The purpose of FHA is to prevent discrimination against certain protected classes when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, or seeking housing assistance. FHA can also apply to other housing-related engagements.
The seven protected classes included in the Fair Housing Act are as follows:
- National Origin
- Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
- Familial Status
This act ensures that people have equal opportunity for housing no matter their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Your local state or city government may also have additional classes that are protected under FHA. It is especially important that you are familiar with your local protected classes, so make sure that you take the time to research this prior to applying for positions in your area.
This act has been very impactful in our society and has enabled many to act against discrimination and to protect their rights to equal housing opportunities.
The Fair Housing Act is overseen by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is a HUD agency created to enforce the FHA laws and regulations. FHEO handles all housing complaints, grants, and compliance issues. If you ever suspect a property is in violation of FHA laws, you can visit this site to file a complaint or call 1-800-669-9777 to speak with an FHEO representative.
Prohibited Acts in the Sale and Rental of Housing:
According to FHA committing any of the following acts because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin is considered illegal discrimination.
- Refusal to rent, sell or negotiate housing or to discourage the purchase or rental of a dwelling
- Otherwise make housing unavailable
- Set different terms, conditions, or privileges or supply different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- Make, print, or publish any notice, statement, or advertisement for housing with discriminatory language
- Impose different sales prices or rental charges
- Use different qualification criteria or applications such as income standards, application requirements, application fees, credit analyses, sale or rental approval procedures or other requirements
- Evict a tenant or a tenant’s guest
- Harass a person (this includes sexual harassment)
- Fail or delay performance of maintenance or repairs
- Limit privileges, services, or facilities of a dwelling
- Assign a person to a particular building or neighborhood or section of a building or neighborhood
- For profit, persuade, or try to persuade, homeowners to sell their homes by suggesting that people of a particular protected characteristic are about to move into the neighborhood (blockbusting)
- Refusal to supply the terms or conditions of homeowners insurance or to discriminate in the terms or conditions of homeowners insurance
- Deny access to or membership in any multiple listing service or real estate brokers’ organization
- Threaten, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise the right
- Retaliate against a person who has filed a fair housing complaint or assisted in a fair housing investigation
- Steering – examples of steering can be found on the HUD website.
There are additional prohibited acts related to Mortgage Lending that you can learn about on the HUD website.
FHA Protections for Persons with Disabilities:
It is illegal for property owners or any housing providers not to provide accommodations for people with disabilities. In the multifamily community, we know of these measures as reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications.
Reasonable accommodations are a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service. A common example of reasonable accommodation is allowing a service dog to live on a property that doesn’t otherwise allow dogs. This is considered an adjustment to a community policy that stands to accommodate a person’s disability.
Reasonable modifications are structural changes made to the premises. A common example of reasonable modification is installing ADA-compliant grab bars in the bathroom of the dwelling. In some cases, the tenant is responsible for the costs of the structural modifications, and in others the property is. This is usually dependent on whether the property receives federal financial assistance or not.
Fair Housing Mistakes to Avoid:
When working in multifamily you will be interacting with lots of people every day and it can be easy to accidentally say something or ask something that might violate FHA laws if you are not hyper-aware of what is and isn’t okay to discuss. Even if you say something with good intentions it can still be considered discrimination. Some common questions you can’t ask or answer:
- How many kids do you have?
- Where are you from?
- Are you pregnant?
- What kind of people live here?
- Are you in a relationship?
- Are you LGBTQ?
- Are the schools good here?
- Is the community safe?
None of these are okay to discuss with a prospect and you should always think through what you’re asking during your tours.
If you are interested in learning more about Fair Housing you can visit the HUD webiste.
At InterSolutions we strive to introduce new talent to the industry with as much knowledge as possible to make sure they are prepared to handle any circumstance in the field. Part of that includes making sure our associates are Fair Housing trained, which is why we offer every associate full Fair Housing and industry-leading training when they join our team. If you’re looking for a chance to start your multifamily career you can browse positions in your local area on our job board.