The Fair Housing Act is intended to protect home renter’s from discrimination. If you are selling or renting out a residential property in Colorado Springs or anywhere in the United States, the FHA will apply to you.
In 1968 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King. During the 1960’s many landlords discriminated against people due to their race and religion and this act mandated that every applicant be treated equally. Later under President Nixon, representatives were appointed to head the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make sure that the Fair Housing Act was properly implemented across the U.S.
If you are planning on selling a property or renting one out, it is essential to know the intricacies of these federal fair housing laws. You are forbidden to ever discriminate against a tenant or buyer based on their race, color, religion, sex or nationality. In 1988 the Federal Housing Amendment Act expanded the law to offer protection to families with children as well as the disabled.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are tasked with enforcing this act.
The Fair Housing Act Regulates Your Rentals
The act clearly states that you cannot take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap.
- Refuse to rent or sell housing
- Refuse to negotiate for housing
- Make housing unavailable
- Deny a dwelling
- Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
- Provide different housing services or facilities
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
- For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
- Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.
Who is exempt from the FHA?
- If it’s an owner-occupied dwelling (four or less units)
- A Single family home that was sold or rented without the assistance of a broker.
However, even with this exemption, you are not allowed to advertise preference based on race, color, religion, sex, nationality, family status or handicap.
Protection for the disabled
Disability protection in the FHA includes hearing, mobility and visual impairments, chronic alcoholism, chronic mental illness, AIDS, AIDS Related Complex and mental retardation that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A landlord may not refuse to allow you to make modifications to the dwelling at your own expense if they are necessary in order for the disabled person to use the property. It would be reasonable for the landlord to expect that the property would be restored to its original condition when the tenants move.
Colorado Springs property management companies and landlords would also have to make allowances in the rules and policies of the building to accommodate the disabled person e.g. allowing a visually impaired person to have their guide dog in their home even though there is a no pet policy in place. Buildings, with four or more units and an elevator, that had their first occupancy after March 13, 1991, must have public and common areas that are accessible to persons with disabilities. The doors and hallways must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
The Act states that every unit must have:
- An Accessible route into and through the unit
- Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls.
- Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars
- Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.
Protection for families
Protection under the act for families ensures that a landlord may not discriminate against a pregnant woman, parent, legal guardian or custodian with children under the age of 18 years.
The procedure if someone lays a complaint with HUD
- If a prospective tenant or buyer feels that they were discriminated against at any time during the buying or renting process, they can file a complaint with HUD.
- A complete investigation will occur and if the HUD finds that discrimination took place they will accept the complaint. If they find no wrongdoing they immediately close the case.
- The HUD then sends the formal complaint to the tenant/buyer (complainant) to be signed and returned.
- The HUD will send the respondent a written notice to inform them that a fair housing complaint has been filed against them. At this point, the respondent will have 10 days to respond to the complaint.
- A full investigation is now launched by the HUD including interviews, checking the relevant paperwork and doing onsite visits. At this point, the HUD will also attempt to get both parties to peacefully solve their dispute. If they do, a conciliation agreement is signed and the case is closed.
- If the HUD discovers that the respondent violated the FHA they will formally charge him or her and a HUD judge will be appointed to hear the case.
- A hefty fine can be handed down to the offender ($16,000 per violation for a first time offender) and they can award the complainant damages plus attorney’s fees.
- Either party has the right to have the case heard in a federal court by the Department of Justice.
It is also illegal for anyone to threaten, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising their fair housing rights.
Get Expert Assistance for Your Rental
Landlords and Colorado Springs residential property managers are well versed in every element of the act to ensure that when they search for new buyers or tenants they have complied with the FHA every step of the way. They know how to interview applicants, run proper credit checks and maintain documents in case of any dispute.